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Burns: 3 Things from extending the point streak

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Edmonton Oilers came in to Tuesday's game at AMALIE Arena as the second-best team in the Pacific Division and third-place team in the Western Conference.

But with the way the Tampa Bay Lightning are playing of late, it doesn't matter how good the opponent is on the opposite side of the ice.

The Lightning continue to rack up points as they play their best hockey of the season.

Tampa Bay extended its point streak to a season-best seven games following a 4-1 victory over the Oilers. 

The Lightning played well in all three phases of the game, getting another spectacular performance from goaltender Ben Bishop, solid play all around from its defensive unit and an offensive explosion supplied by the Triplets line. Aside from a brief moment early in the third period when the Oilers thought they had cut their deficit to one only to see their second goal overturned, the Lightning were in control throughout and never threatened.

With the win, the Lightning gain ground in the Atlantic Division, moving into a tie with Buffalo for sixth place but with a game in hand. The Bolts trail Boston and Florida by just four points and third place Toronto by five.

With 23 games to go in the regular season, the Lightning are hitting their stride at just the right time. Below, we'll look at the biggest factors that supplied the Bolts with their second-straight win and fifth victory in their last seven games.

Video: EDM@TBL: Palat nets Johnson's perfect pass for second

1. TRIPLETS ACTIVATE

The Triplets reunited during the third period of the Lightning's 4-3 overtime loss in Dallas and have stayed together over the following two games, including Tuesday's against Edmonton.

It certainly hasn't taken them long to get reacquainted.

The trio accounted for three of the Lightning's first four goals and eight of their 10 points in a commanding effort against the Oilers.

"Guys are just slotting into their roles and I think, as a coach, they've been really good together and sometimes they've gotten stale together," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Now they're back together and they've had a couple of fantastic games. The big thing is who they're doing it against. They go up against one of the best players in the world. You've got a (Connor) McDavid, a (Leon) Draisaitl, and a Pat Maroon. By my count, 60-some goals those three have this year. To do what they did and have the success, that was really big for us."

After a strong showing in Colorado that didn't yield any goals but did allow Nikita Kucherov to fire off nine shots, a season high for the Bolts this season, the trio brought back memories of their breakout 2014-15 season with their performance Tuesday night against Edmonton.

On the Bolts' opening goal Nikita Kucherov carried the puck into the Oilers' zone on a 2-on-1 rush with Ondrej Palat and dished off to his right for Palat, who one-timed a shot past Edmonton goalie Laurent Brossoit to put the Bolts on the board under five minutes into the game.

Just 16 seconds into the second period, Palat again benefitted from a beauty of a pass, this time Tyler Johnson saucing one over to Palat on the back post to make it 2-0 Lightning.

"I almost put too much (sauce) on it," Johnson said. "You always say you can't give a good player a bad pass, and Pally's pretty good."

Kucherov pushed the Bolts' cushion back to two goals 49 seconds into the final period when he wheeled his way into the left circle and fired a shot from the dot past Brossoit for his team-best 22nd goal of the season.

Kucherov ended his season-long four game scoreless drought in spectacular fashion, recording four points on the night (goal, 3 assists) to tie a career-high. He was also plus-four on the night, as well as Anton Stralman, a season-best for the Bolts.

"They're great players," Kucherov said of his Triplets linemates. "Obviously played a couple years ago and last year a little bit. Every time you get that chemistry going, you feel good. It's nice to have that kind of game."

 Video: Cooper on Bolts' 4-1 victory over EDM

2. THE CHALLENGE

Shortly after Nikita Kucherov put the Lightning back up by two goals with his early score in the third period, Edmonton answered to climb back within striking distance, Oscar Klefbom ripping a shot from above the circles that eluded the glove of Ben Bishop.

Except the Lightning coaching staff spotted an offside Leon Draisaitl entering the Bolts' zone before the puck, an infraction that came right before Klefbom's bomb.

The Lightning haven't had too many successful coach's challenges in recent memory. So, when the officials determined after video review Draisaitl had, in fact, entered the zone just slightly offside and disallowed the goal, the reaction was shock more than anything from the AMALIE Arena faithful.

After all, Lightning fans have seen plenty of coach's challenges over the last couple seasons that have appeared more cut and dry than Tuesday's only to watch in disbelief as the officials decline to see it their way.

"That might be one of our first challenges that actually went our way," Johnson said. "It's good to start sometime."

The fact the coach's challenge finally went Tampa Bay's way was a big turning point in the game.

With the score remaining 3-1 and momentum back on their side, the Lightning were able to salt away the rest of the third period to preserve the victory and keep their point streak intact.

"I don't know what our record is in challenges, but it's a little to a lot against us," Cooper said. "Those ones are usually black and white. It was close. It was definitely close. We still had the lead had that not been offside, but I think that took a little bit of the wind out of their sails when they had that one called back."

 Video: EDM@TBL: Bishop robs Letestu's tip-in attempt

3. BISHOP KEEPS ROLLING
Ben Bishop's performance against Edmonton will largely get overshadowed by the spectacle that was the Triplets, but Bishop continues to provide the Bolts with the impetus they need to go on an extended run.

Since the beginning of February, Bishop has been scorching. He won his fifth-consecutive start in the month with 20 saves on 21 Edmonton shots. Over that five-game stretch, Bishop has allowed just six goals. His goals-against average for the month is down to 1.17, fourth-best in the NHL. But all three players ahead of him - St. Louis' Carter Hutton, Chicago's Scott Darling and Washington's Phillip Grubauer - have each started just two games in the month to Bishop's five.

Bishop owns a .953 save percentage in February, fifth best in the league.

Bishop's play this February continues a career trend of success during the month for the goalie. Bishop owns the lowest career GAA (1.97) for active goalies (minimum 20 games) in February and is now 25-10-1 in 37 games all-time in the month.

With Bishop playing as well as he is as well as strong starts from backup Andrei Vasilevskiy when his number is called, the Lightning have been getting spectacular goaltending during their current seven-game point streak.

As long as the hot goaltending continues, the Bolts should be able to keep racking up points and climbing their way up the Eastern Conference standings.

 

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