John Cooper believes good things happen when Valtteri Filppula shoots more. It appears his Finnish forward is listening.
Tampa Bay's prized free agent acquisition this offseason, Filppula has been forced to take on a bigger role after star center Steven Stamkos suffered a broken leg Nov. 11. While he has been inconsistent - Filppula has six goals and five assists in the 17 games without Stamkos - he delivered in a big way Wednesday on the road against the New York Islanders, scoring twice in the final 2:53 of regulation and adding a tally in the shootout as the Lightning (20-11-3) won 3-2.
''When you're coming back from two down and get that first one, you get immediate confidence,'' Filppula said. ''That's a good sign when you get a great bounce late and win a game when you didn't play your best all night.''
Cooper, though, thinks some of those bounces could have come earlier had his forward taken more shots in the game. Filppula had four shots, just the third time in the 17 games since Stamkos was injured he had more than two.
"We were passing up too many shots again, especially Filpp," the coach said. "Filpp scores that first one in the slot, he had three of those during the game and passed all of them. He gets rewarded with the shot and then.... you pull the goalie and we've been in that situation we haven't scored and tonight we did."
Filppula had a goal in his last game versus the Predators while with Detroit and has totaled seven goals and 13 assists in 40 games against them. He has five goals and eight assists in helping Tampa Bay go 9-1-1 in its last 11 at home.
Nashville (16-15-3) was thwarted in its bid to sweep a three-game homestand and notch a season-high fourth consecutive win Wednesday, losing 3-1 to league-leading Chicago. Defenseman Shea Weber scored the lone goal in the first period, a power-play tally, but the Predators were unable to sustain the momentum of a strong opening 20 minutes in which they registered 17 of their 28 shots.
''I just thought we just mismanaged a few situations tonight that gave them enough momentum,'' coach Barry Trotz said. ''We should have got points out of this game. We played well enough to do that, but the second period and the third period, they did a good job. We couldn't get any forecheck going. We couldn't get any sustained pressure.''
Weber leads the team with eight goals, and six have come on the power play. Fellow blueliner Roman Josi has two goals and four assists in a career high-tying five-game point streak, though rookie defenseman Seth Jones - the fourth overall pick in this year's draft - has only one assist in his last 12 contests.
The Predators have won four of their last five on the road, totaling 16 goals on the heels of a four-game road skid in which they were outscored 17-2.
Nashville has won the last three meetings between the teams, including a 5-3 home win Oct. 27, 2011, in the most recent matchup.