Scoring wasn’t at all a problem last season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, and that potent offense continued into the first two weeks this season.
Lately, though, goals have been extremely difficult to find.
Tampa Bay aims to avoid a fourth straight loss Saturday night when it welcomes the surging Boston Bruins to Amalie Arena.
A deep Lightning team scored a league-high 262 goals in 2014-15 and advanced all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals. They maintained that level of production in the early stages this season, scoring 27 times during a 5-2-1 start.
However, the offense dried up completely in back-to-back 1-0 losses at Chicago and St. Louis before the Lightning returned home Thursday and lost 2-1 to Colorado.
After getting shut out just once all last season – in the 76th game – Tampa Bay was blanked twice in its first 10.
"If we were like the NFL with a 16-game season, I would be worried," coach Jon Cooper told the team’s official website. "But it’s an 82-game season. I’m not worried."
Alex Killorn scored for the Lightning (5-4-2), who have totaled one goal in three consecutive games for the first time since the 2001-02 season.
"There are ups and downs in the season, and it’s too bad that a goal drought like this is happening early on," Killorn said. "But we’ve been through this before, and guys will get over it for sure."
There is plenty of blame to go around, just not for the goaltending tandem of Ben Bishop and Kristers Gudlevskis, who have held opponents to two goals or fewer six times and combined for a 2.43 goals-against average.
Captain Steven Stamkos has a team-best five goals but none in four games, while Tyler Johnson – who finished tied for second on the Lightning with a career-high 29 in 2014-15 – has yet to score. Johnson didn’t practice Friday and is questionable for this game with an undisclosed injury.
Forwards Jonathan Drouin (lower body) and Cedric Paquette (ankle) also were absent from practice and are doubtful.
Tampa Bay had no problem scoring in its first meeting with the Bruins, a 6-3 road victory Oct. 12. That was the Lightning’s third straight win in the series after 10 consecutive losses.
This promises to be a more difficult challenge with Boston having won three straight as part of a 5-0-1 run.
The Bruins (5-3-1) won for the fourth time in as many road games, beating Florida 3-1 on Friday as Brad Marchand scored twice in support of Tuukka Rask’s 31-save effort.
”It’s the same as every game. You just want to work hard and sometimes it comes together and sometimes it doesn’t. Luckily tonight got a couple of bounces,” Marchand said.
Marchand has four goals and three assists during a five-game point streak, while David Krejci continued his fast start with an assist. He has at least a point in every game, collecting seven goals and eight assists.
Krejci’s season-opening nine-game streak is the longest by a Boston player since 1992-93 when Joe Juneau and Dmitri Kvartalnov opened with 14-game runs.
Rask could give way to Jonas Gustavsson on the second of this back-to-back. Gustavsson has won both of his starts, making 23 saves in a 5-3 victory over the New York Islanders in his latest Oct. 23.
Bishop is 3-0-0 with a 2.59 GAA in his last three against Boston.