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Burns: 3 things from two straight comebacks

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Devils

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

The Tampa Bay Lightning aren't making things easy on themselves in 2016-17.

But, they have two wins after two games, and, really, that's all that matters.

The Lightning had to rally again on Saturday night, overcoming a two-goal deficit to defeat the New Jersey Devils 3-2 at AMALIE Arena. The Bolts continue to dominate the Devils in recent times, having now won five in a row in the series dating back to 2014-15.

In the process, the Lightning start 2-0-0 for the second-straight season and sixth time in franchise history.

Lightning captain Steven Stamkos netted his first goal of the year to get the Bolts on the board, and Alex Killorn and Valtteri Filppula each scored for the second straight game to complete the rally.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 32 of New Jersey's 34 shots to win in his season debut.

The Bolts continue to show resiliency early with their ability to rally.

What else did they show?

Three Things from another win over the Devils.

 

1. SLOW STARTS

Tampa Bay has struggled out of the gates in both of its games this season, falling behind in each.

The Lightning have been outscored 4-0 in the first period through two games. They've looked slow to react in the opening 20 minutes and passes that are hitting their mark in the second and third periods are either a bit too far in front or slightly behind in the early going, slowing down the offense from getting its speed game uncorked.

The sluggish starts haven't affected the Lightning so far as they've come back to win both games.

But, the Bolts can't continue to use the opening 20 minutes to just try to get into the game. They have to be ready to go right from the opening puck drop or future opponents will punish them.

"Yeah, the big joke in our staff room was a two-goal lead is the hardest lead to protect," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "Then somebody else said 'How would we know because we've never had one?' It's tough going down early like that. The only part that's helped us, I guess, is that we've had a lot of game to get ourselves back. We've got a group that's been together for a while and been in all sorts of different situations. Clearly not ideal to go down by two especially when you got a guy like Schneider in the net and a well-structured team, but the boys found a way."

Stamkos said the early struggles could be a product of going into games overconfident.

By the time the Bolts fall behind by two, they finally realize they have a job to do.

"I know we're confident in our ability to create offense, but can't count on having our goaltender make some big saves to keep it within reach," Stamkos said. "So, we'll obviously look to improve in trying to start the game on time."

 

2. PLETHORA OF GOALSCORERS

Video: NJD@TBL: Filppula deflects in Garrison's point shot

The Lightning have scored nine goals over their first two games of 2016-17.

Seven different Bolts have netted those goals.

Getting contributions from multiple players is nothing new for the Lightning. Last season, nine Bolts scored 10 or more goals, third most in the Eastern Conference.

But this year's team is even deeper it seems than last year's.

On the third line, Valtteri Filppula has scored in each of the first two games to give that group a scoring lift. And the fourth line, made up of bruisers Cedric Paquette, Brian Boyle and J.T. Brown, contributed two goals in the Bolts' season-opening win on Saturday.

"Stamkos is a great offensive player…but it's not just him," Devils goaltender Cory Schneider after opening the season with his second-straight loss. "Like I said this morning, they have six or seven guys who have their heads up and can make those plays. Palat made a great play and somehow threaded the needle, so you know they have a real dangerous group of forwards and we saw them tonight."

In the 2016 Eastern Conference Final, it was Pittsburgh's depth in scoring, particularly their third line of Nick Bonino, Phil Kessel and Carl Hagelin, that was the key reason they were able to defeat the Lightning and go on to win the Stanley Cup.

In the offseason, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman said his team needed to get more reliable scoring contributions from its third and fourth lines, like Pittsburgh.

At least early in the season, it looks like Yzerman got his wish.

"It's a lot of fun coaching these guys, and I've had a front row seat for the last few years to watch these guys just grow," Cooper said. "We talk about falling behind. It's clearly not what we want to happen, but we've got a group that, they know they're never out of it and we've got the weapons that can make those type of plays. As every period's gone on in a game we've gotten stronger and stronger and stronger. I just like the way they're competing."

 3. VASY REBOUNDS

Video: NJD@TBL: Vasilevskiy robs Bennett with a big pad save

The start to Saturday's game is one Andrei Vasilevskiy would just as soon erase from his memory bank.

New Jersey scored 52 seconds into the contest when John Moore sent an innocuous-looking shot from the left point at goal, and Kyle Palmieri was able to deflect it just enough to send it past Vasilevskiy and into the Lightning goal.

Three-and-a-half minutes later, Travis Zajac's shot hit the stick of Bolts defenseman Anton Stralman and slipped by Vasilevskiy at the near post.

But Vasilevskiy, despite being down 2-0 by the first TV timeout, didn't panic. He settled himself.

And he settled his team in the process.

"He played great," Filppula said. "He continued where he ended last season and definitely made a lot of key saves to keep us in the game. He gave us a chance to win."

Prior to Thursday's opener, Cooper said he wanted to get starting goaltender Ben Bishop around 50 starts this season and Vasilevskiy at least 30. Last season, Vasilevskiy struggled with infrequent starts and was rusty at times when he did play.

Cooper wants to get Vasilevskiy more work this season to keep him primed and on top of his game.

After performances like the one Vasilevskiy delivered Saturday, Cooper will be more likely to stick to that plan.

Vasilevskiy was at his best with the Bolts ahead 3-2 and trying to kill the clock. Andrej Sustr took a late penalty with about six minutes to go, and the Devils pulled Schneider with a little less than two minutes remaining to give themselves an extra attacker for much of the final few minutes of the game.

Vasilevskiy stonewalled everything New Jersey threw at him to preserve the win.

"I thought Vasy was really strong, especially, again, big penalty kill in the last, what was it, six minutes of the game," Cooper said. "We're up a goal, and then they pull their goalie for a minute and a half. So we were short quite a bit the last five or six minutes, and when we needed the big save, Vasy was there."

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