Struggling Blackhawks visit Lightning

TAMPA, Fla. — A minor shakeup woke up the Tampa Bay Lightning while the Chicago Blackhawks continue to wait on the effect from their major shakeup earlier this month.

The Lightning made a slight change to their top two lines, splitting up the duo of Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov prior to Wednesday’s game against the Florida Panthers. It resulted in the pair combining for two goals and seven points in a lopsided victory against Florida despite the two playing a combined 30 seconds of ice time together at even strength.

“We shook the lines up a little bit and it seemed to give everybody a little energy,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “But (Stamkos) was seeing it, he was feeling it a little bit. He earned all the breaks he was getting, and he was making some fabulous plays out there and that’s probably why he ends up with four points.”

Stamkos ended up with a season high in points and looked energized and engaged throughout the game while lined up between J.T. Miller and Yanni Gourde.

“We showed some urgency,” Stamkos said. “We fed off that. The start is something we have been working on and it was a lot better tonight. … Guys were battling all night and that’s what you want to see. Compete. And when you compete, the skill takes over.”

The Blackhawks, who made a coaching change on Nov. 6 bringing in Jeremy Colliton to replace Joel Quenneville, have yet to turn things around since the change was made with just two victories in seven games.

Among the lowest scoring teams in the league at 2.64 goals per game, Colliton has put together a top line of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad in hopes of overloading the offense for a boost.

“If we play them together, they’ve got to produce,” Colliton told the Chicago Sun Times. “Sometimes when you spread them out, no one produces. By loading them up, it puts some pressure on them. But hopefully they play so well, it doesn’t matter who has the puck. They’re making plays, they break through anyway, no matter who they’re playing against.”

Since Colliton took over, Chicago has scored more than two goals just twice in seven games and posted a 2-3-2 record while not scoring more than three goals in any game.

“We’re definitely hurting for offense right now, and that’s from top to bottom . . . the production has gone down,” Kane told the Sun Times. ”You take it upon yourself as a player that’s supposed to score and produce, be able to do that every night. It would be nice to be able to do that more often.”

Wednesday night the Blackhawks fell behind the Capitals 1-0 just 54 second in. They eventually trailed 3-0 before pulling within 3-2 at 5:23 of the third period, but Washington’s Devante Smith-Pelly scored to make it 4-2 at 7:12 and that was the final.

“Obviously don’t want to give up a goal like that,” Chicago’s Duncan Keith said. “It would have been nice to keep it 3-2 and add some more pressure on them.”

Brandon Saad and Erik Gustafsson scored, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves for Chicago.