Preview: Lightning try to get defense under control against Canucks

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TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — The Tampa Bay Lightning do not have much trouble with offense.

But, lately, defense has been a different story.

The Lightning (25-7-2), which sit first overall in the NHL and lead the league in goals with 138, has surrendered 15 markers in its last three games.

Assistant coach Derek Lalonde, standing in for head coach Jon Cooper after a practice in Vancouver on Monday, noted there is a need to emphasize offense in today’s NHL. But he said the Bolts will be putting the onus on defense in Tuesday’s game against the Canucks (16-16-4).

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“There’s a fine line of thinking offense, playing offense (and) instinctively playing offense, but not giving up on the other end – and we’ve crossed it at times,” said Lalonde.

The Bolts are looking to rebound after Sunday’s 5-4 overtime loss in Winnipeg ended their winning streak at eight games.

“(It’s) probably a good lesson learned,” said Lalonde of the close loss against one of the NHL’s best clubs. “I would say we’ve been getting away with (loose play), but we’ve had some games where we got away with (wins). It was through great goaltending or a last-second defensive save.”

Lalonde said defenseman and forwards alike have to think about defense collectively.

“Our guys have done a pretty good job of self-evaluating, knowing when to tighten (play) up and when they’ve left (the defensive effort) out there,” said Lalonde. “The last couple games, we’ve left it out there a little more.”

The Lightning regarded the game against Winnipeg as a litmus test for their season. The Canucks pose much less of a challenge than the Jets, but Vancouver has won five of its past six games, including back-to-back home games on the weekend against Philadelphia and a surging Edmonton squad.

“They’re a good team,” said Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman of the Canucks. “Just from watching from the sidelines a little bit, offensively, they’ve been going for a while and we know they can score goals.”

The Canucks have averaged four goals per game in their last quartet of contests. In the game before those four, they scored six times.

“We have a lot of sharpshooters out there and a lot of guys who can put the puck in the net, so it was just a matter of time before (the goals) started flooding in,” center Bo Horvat, 25, told reporters.

After being considered a playoff after-thought, the Canucks have moved into the wild-card discussion. Tuesday’s contest against the NHL’s best club will serve as a potential benchmark after the Canucks achieved a high standard in Sunday’s win over the Oilers.

“I would say it was one of our better games of the year,” said Vancouver coach Travis Green.

Consequently, the Lightning has probably picked a good time to think more about defense.