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Burns: 3 Things from a win to cap off 2016

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 3-1 win over Carolina

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning won for the second time in their last three games and fourth time in their last six following a 3-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes to end 2016.

The Bolts used a different formula to reach win No. 19 on the season.

Tampa Bay scored the opening goal and played with the lead, a welcome departure from previous outings.

The Lightning held Carolina scoreless over four power plays, the Bolts' penalty kill doing a terrific job disrupting and not allowing the Canes to build any momentum from the man-advantage.

And with a two-goal lead in the final period, the Lightning absorbed Carolina's push to get back in the game and leaned on another strong performance in net by Andrei Vasilevskiy to keep the Canes from getting any closer.

The Lightning will look to continue to rack up points at home when they host Winnipeg on Tuesday, January 3, the fourth game in a five-game home stand for the Bolts.

But before closing the book on 2016, let's recap why Tampa Bay was dominant Saturday night in 3 Things from a home win over Carolina.

1. HOLLA AT YA BOYLE
With Steven Stamkos out until mid-March while he rehabs from surgery to repair a lateral meniscus tear in his right knee, the Lightning need others to step up and replace the captain's scoring.

The Bolts are getting production from an unlikely source, however.

Brian Boyle has scored six goals in his last nine games, including another goal on a first period power play for the opening goal of the Carolina contest. After netting just four goals in his first 27 games, Boyle has exploded offensively, providing the Lightning another scoring threat teams must account for.

Boyle's goal on Saturday was indicative of the way the 6-foot-6 forward's been scoring this season as he followed up on a rebound from Nikita Kucherov's saved shot and slotted the puck into the net. Boyle's been doing a lot of the dirty work for the Bolts of late: providing a screen in front of goal, looking for redirects on shots from the point and fighting for loose pucks in the slot.

He was rewarded again for his hard work on Saturday.  

"That first goal was a typical example, hit a stick and rebound it, Boyle is right there," Hedman said.

Boyle is now on a two-game scoring streak but was lost midway through the second period to a lower-body injury and did not return.

His status for Tuesday's game is unknown.

"It's funny, (Lightning general manage) Steve (Yzerman) and I were talking about - we talk every single day -- but the only thing we ever talking about is who are we calling up next," said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper, who didn't have an update on Boyle's injury following the game. "That's our conversation basically after every game, so hopefully 2017 we can talk about the game instead of who's injured and who has to get called up next. We got a day to see how everyone is, and we'll evaluate."

 

2. STRIKING FIRST

The Lightning fell behind 2-0 in their last four games but were resilient enough to earn points from three of those four games and win two of the four.

But the slow starts in consecutive games weren't a recipe for success, and the Bolts came into Saturday's game knowing they had to play better from the opening puck drop to come out with a victory.

The Lightning benefitted from a couple early power plays to get on the board first, Boyle striking at 7:35 of the opening period for the first goal, and Jonathan Drouin converting a 5-on-4 just as a 5-on-3 had expired with 10 seconds left in the first to go up 2-0.

"(Our starts) haven't been good enough," Lightning forward Alex Killorn said. "(The Hurricanes) have a great PK, but for us to get two goals on the power play, huge momentum booster for our team going forward. I think we could be better throughout the full game, but I think our starts are that thing that's been missing, and I think tonight we did a good job having a great start."

Carolina's penalty kill ranked first in the league at 90.7 percent coming into Saturday's game. The Canes' road PK was even better at 94.2 percent.

But a determined group of Bolts were able to break through for two against Carolina's vaunted penalty kill thanks to a renewed emphasis on starting faster.

"Well that was a strong point of contention in the locker room before the game was playing with the lead because we haven't done it very often," Cooper said. "You could tell the guys were digging in to get that first one."

 

3. VASILEVSKIY GROWING INTO STARTER'S ROLE
With each consecutive start Andrei Vasilevskiy makes since Ben Bishop went down with a lower-body injury, the Russian goalie seems to be growing in confidence.

After a stellar third period two nights earlier against Toronto, Vasilevskiy carried over his hot play into the Carolina game and kept the Canes off the board for much of the night.

When the Lightning gave up three breakaways in the second period, Vasilevskiy was there to clean up the Bolts' mistakes. Only a fourth breakaway converted by Sebastian Aho prevented Vasilevskiy from earning his third shutout of the season.

"I know it ended up 3-1, but Vasilevskiy had to make a lot of quality saves at big times to make sure it was 3-1," Cooper said.

Vasilevskiy has won four of six appearances since coming in for Bishop on December 20. Cooper said his growing confidence is a result of relaxing in his newfound role as the everyday starter.

"I think there was a point there when Bish went down, I think Vasy might have been feeling a little bit of the weight of the world on him, that, 'I've got to carry this team,' and that's not the case at all," Cooper said. "We've got to carry the team, and all he has to do is, if we do break down, try and bail us out when we can. The big thing with him is don't worry about anything, just worry about being yourself in the net. He really has. I think he was just putting a lot of pressure on himself to carry our team, and he's already an outstanding goaltender. As you saw tonight, he's really kind of settling into his role now, and it's really, really nice to see."

 

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