Lightning's potent offense set to tackle Bruins
TAMPA, Fla. — After a roller coaster road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning return home hoping to continue an upward climb.
The high-scoring Lightning offense faces a potential pitfall in Boston Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask.
The Lightning are coming off a six-game road trip in which they won the first two, then lost three consecutive — including an embarrassing blowout defeat to the New York Rangers — before ending the trip on a high note with 6-1 victory over the New York Islanders.
“I thought it was just a complete effort,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the win against the Islanders at Barclays Center. “Compare and contrast to the Rangers game where it was just odd-man rush after odd-man rush, we were a really responsible team tonight, and we ended up getting the lead and then held on from there.”
Getting a lead against the Bruins might prove a more difficult task for Tampa Bay while facing a rejuvenated Rask.
The Bruins netminder, who missed three games due to injury, has allowed one goal in his two games since returning to the lineup. In his past four starts, Rask has allowed a total of three goals, including a shutout of the Detroit Red Wings on Oct. 29.
Rask has won all five of his starts to date this season, allowing one or fewer goals in all but one of those starts. He posted a 2-1 victory at Florida on Tuesday, keeping the Bruins in the game in the opening period by stopping all 13 shots he faced. He had to be sharp as Boston killed off seven Panthers power-play chances as well.
“The way we played the (first period), we probably didn't deserve the lead,” Rask said, “but we got better. Our (penalty kill) was good all night.”
Bruins coach Claude Julien said, “We had great goaltending, especially in the first period. We had a goaltender who was ready to play and kept us in it.”
While the Bruins are 5-0-0 with Rask playing, they are 0-4-0 in the games he sat out, so the best bet for the up-and-down Lightning offense might be to root for Rask to take a night off.
Tampa Bay (6-4-0) enters the game averaging 3.2 goals per game, ranked sixth in the league. The power play has clicked at a 24.4 percent success rate in the first 10 games of the season, while the 10 goals the Lightning have scored with the man advantage are tied for third most in the league.
Despite the high-octane attack, the goals dried up during Tampa Bay's three-game losing streak — producing a combined three goals in those games.
The Lightning want to find a more consistent balance.
“We got challenged internally in this room,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “We got challenged by the coaching staff to respond, and I thought we did a great job of just playing the right way. We learned that what made us successful was just defend first and let the skill take over after that.”