Lightning host Avalanche with strikes coming from everywhere
TAMPA, Fla. — So much of the attention for the Tampa Bay Lightning goes to the league’s top two scorers in Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos.
But as the Colorado Avalanche come to town Thursday night, Tampa Bay is showing off the depth of its scoring lines.
Tuesday’s 6-2 victory over the New York Islanders saw neither score a goal — Yanni Gourde had two, and Stamkos was a minus-1 on the night, a reminder of how dangerous all Tampa Bay’s lines can be.
“It’s been big for us all year,” said Ryan Callahan, whose line is typically tasked with neutralizing an opponent’s top scorers. “Other guys have to step up and do it … other guys have to chip in too.”
The Lightning are 19-6-2 and regaining momentum after a 1-3-0 stretch — they lead the league in scoring at 3.7 goals per game, and are also fourth in goals allowed at 2.5 per game. It’s a tough challenge for an Avalanche team that is 12-12-2 and just dropped three straight at home, falling to 1-4-1 in their last six.
“We’re obviously going through something here where we’re not playing the way we’re capable of,” coach Jared Bednar said after Tuesday’s 4-2 loss to Buffalo. “We’re just not playing real well right now. We have to be better. … It’s not disastrous. It’s concerning.”
Colorado will get a spark with the return of Gabriel Landeskog, who comes back after a four-game suspension for a cross-check to the head of Calgary’s Matthew Tkachuk. He left as the team’s leading goal-scorer with nine, but that honor now goes to Nathan MacKinnon, who has 10 to go with a team-best 21 assists.
Those numbers pale in comparison to Kucherov, second in the league with 19 goals, and Stamkos, second in the league with 27 assists, which puts them 1-2 in the league in total scoring.
Colorado split two meetings with the Lightning last season, but have been outscored 13-5 in its three-game skid. They have their next four on the road, with games at Florida, Pittsburgh and Washington.
“It’s going to get tough,” Bednar said. “This road trip coming up, it’s a doozy.”
The Avalanche get the Lightning again in Denver in nine days, doubling back with home games against three of the four teams they face on the road.
A look at the two rosters reveals a huge difference in scoring depth. Tampa Bay has 10 players who have scored 14 points or more this season while Colorado has five.
Tampa Bay jumped out to a 2-0 lead Tuesday, only to see the Islanders jump back with two quick goals in the second. They responded with three goals in three minutes at the end of the second, taking over the game and setting up an easy home win.
“It was good to see us respond like that,” Callahan said of the three-goal flurry. “We put some goals in the net and took control of the game again.”
Tampa Bay has a league-best 17 wins from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, while Colorado has split time between Semyon Varlamov (8-6-1) and Jonathan Bernier (4-6-1), with Varlamov playing in three of the last four games.