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Burns: 3 Things from a loss in San Jose

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 2-1 loss to the Sharks

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Tampa Bay started its game in San Jose much the way it did in contests earlier this week against Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The Lightning hit top speed from the opening puck drop and were unrelenting with their pressure on Sharks goalie Aaron Dell. Just five minutes into the game, the Bolts already enjoyed a 7-1 shot advantage.

By the end of the first period, the Lightning were ahead 11-7 in shots.

Unfortunately, the score remained 0-0. Like two nights earlier in Anaheim, the Bolts were unable to generate any goals from their positive start.

And like the Anaheim game, the Lightning fell 2-1 on Thursday, only against the Sharks, the Bolts weren't able to salvage any points from the loss as Logan Couture's goal 22 seconds into the third period stood up as the game-winner.

The Lightning continued the positive play they've been exhibiting over the last couple weeks. But coming away from San Jose with nothing is a harsh result for the Lightning to accept, particular for a team that played as well as the Bolts did on Thursday and one needing as many points as it can grab.

In 3 Things we learned from San Jose, we'll look at where the Bolts went wrong on Thursday and what positives they can take with them into Arizona on Saturday.

Video: TBL@SJS: Drouin scores PPG on a dazzling solo effort

1. DROUIN IT WELL

Since the start of Tampa Bay's West Coast trip, Jonathan Drouin has been the best player on the ice in each contest.

In the road trip opener against Los Angeles, Drouin feathered a pass from the right circle to the left circle, eluding the sticks of three different Kings, to put the puck perfectly on the tape of Tyler Johnson for a back door one-timer.

A night later in Anaheim, Drouin hit Nikita Kucherov with a fly pattern pass Jameis Winston would be proud of, lobbing the puck from halfway inside his own zone to a streaking Kucherov on the opposite blue line, the Russian never having to break stride as the puck settled on his blade.

Thursday night, Drouin added another jaw-dropper to the highlight reel.

After a puck eluded him at the point on a second period power play, Drouin had to retreat from the zone to regather. Frustrated by his lapse and sensing the Sharks had relaxed a bit, Drouin retrieved the puck and cut sharply, shifting into high gear and nearing a full out sprint as he re-entered the zone. Charging hard toward goal, Drouin switched the puck from his backhand to his forehand in tight on goal and then deposited it at the far post to beat Sharks goalie Aaron Dell.

Drouin shook three Sharks' defensemen and left Dell grasping at air while scoring his 14th goal of the season and team-leading seventh power-play goal of 2016-17.

Since December 1, Drouin has scored 11 goals and added 12 assists in 22 games, an average of 1.05 points per game, ranking tied for seventh for points per game over that span.

And with points in six of his last seven games, Drouin shows no signs of slowing down anytime soon.

 Video: Cooper on loss 2-1 loss to the Sharks

2. ROAD WEARY

The Lightning have dropped 12 of their last 14 road games, going 2-9-3 over that stretch.

Part of the reason for the Bolts' ineffectiveness away from AMALIE Arena stems from their inability to put the puck in the back of the net.

In their last eight-consecutive road games, the Lightning have scored two or less goals.

You have to go all the way back to 2010 when they went nine-straight road games scoring two or less goals to find a longer Tampa Bay stretch for road scoring futility.

The Lightning weren't without their chances against the Sharks.

In the second period, moments after Jonathan Drouin leveled the score 1-1, Nikita Nesterov nearly put the Lightning in the lead for the first time, but his blast hit the post.

Soon after, Vladislav Namestnikov's open one-timer from the low slot was blocked away by Dell.

In the third with the Lightning scrambling for the tying goal, Valtteri Filppula went behind the goal on a rush and tried the wraparound stuff. Dell lost his stick but was still able to make the stop.

And with five seconds remaining and Andrei Vasilevskiy on the bench for the extra attacker, Alex Killorn got an open look from the slot but just pushed his shot wide.

The Lightning had chances against San Jose, they just couldn't convert, much like the Anaheim game two nights prior.

 Video: TBL@SJS: Vasilevskiy denies Boedker's tip in front

3. IMPROVING PENALTY KILL

The penalty kill has been a real head-scratcher for the Lightning this season. What was a point of pride for the Bolts in 2015-16 when it ranked seventh in the league has been anything but a year later.

Slowly, steadily, however, the Lightning penalty kill has shown signs of improvement, steps that began before the Bolts headed out west and have continued in California.

The Sharks only had one power-play opportunity on Thursday, that coming midway through the third period holding a 2-1 advantage. The Lightning easily snuffed it out.

Against Anaheim, the penalty kill went 4-for-4 in regulation and had some timely kills late in the game with the Ducks pushing for the go-ahead goal. Anaheim eventually won the game in overtime during a 4-on-3 power play, but the Lightning penalty kill unit could hardly be blamed for that score, the Ducks Rickard Rakell snapping a shot from a face-off seconds into the power play, catching the Bolts off guard.

In their last seven games, the Bolts haven't allowed a power-play goal in four.

With their mini-resurgence, the Lightning penalty kill has moved up in the league rankings and sits in 20th place, tied with Philadelphia currently.

That ranking might not seem all that positive, but compared with where the Bolts were a few weeks ago at 25th or lower, the gradual improvement is a welcome positive step for a beleaguered unit.

 

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