When the Tampa Bay Lightning started their current six-game win streak in Edmonton a little less than two weeks ago, the Bolts were in danger of falling to seventh place in the Atlantic Division as Toronto nipped at their heels just three points behind.
Today, the Lightning wake up in a second-place tie with Detroit in the Atlantic and find themselves only three points back of Florida for the division lead.
Tampa Bay continued winning and climbing in the division standings with a solid 6-4 victory over that same Oilers team at Amalie Arena. The Lightning are suddenly the second-hottest team in the NHL with wins in six-straight games.
That would be the Chicago Blackhawks, who won their 12th in a row on Tuesday, defeating Nashville 4-1 and come to Amalie Arena on Thursday.
The rematch of last season’s Stanley Cup Final promises to be one of the hottest tickets of the NHL regular season.
But before moving ahead to that matchup, let’s take a look back at last night’s win and the three biggest takeaways from consecutive win No. 6 in today’s 3 Things.
1. DEPTH IN SCORING
The Lightning saw six different players score goals in the 6-4 victory over Edmonton, underscoring the amount of offensive options the Bolts have available now that everybody is healthy.
That wasn’t always the case in the first half of the season. Through the first 41 games, Tampa Bay had just two players – Steven Stamkos (18) and Nikita Kucherov (15) – in double figures for goals.
Last year at the same point in the season, Stamkos (21), Kucherov (17), Tyler Johnson (15) and Ryan Callahan (12) all were in double figures with Ondrej Palat and Alex Killorn right on the cusp with nine goals each.
During the Bolts’ current six-game win streak, twelve different players have contributed goals, and the Lightning have scored at least three goals in each game.
“When we’re healthy, we’ve got a pretty deep team,” said Lightning center Brian Boyle, who returned from a one-game absence due to a lower-body injury to register the game-winning goal shorthanded against the Oilers. “We all want to contribute. We all want to be a part of this and contribute. I think that’s kind of a healthy competition within the team. It’s something that we all want to do. You want to feel good about yourself after you win. Winning is the most important, but you want to feel good about yourself too.”
In just the past couple weeks, with the lineup finally intact and consistent, the Lightning have jumped in the league rankings for goals scored, moving from the 20s, where they resided for much of the season, to 11th following last night’s six goals.
“It seems like everybody’s contributing in the way they should, and it’s just nice that we’re finally scoring some goals,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said.
2. COBURN CHIPPING IN
With a quarter of the third period expired, the Lightning were in danger of wasting a two-goal lead and having their win streak snapped by the Pacific Division cellar-dwelling Oilers.
Ondrej Palat and Vladislav Namestnikov scored in the second period to build what seemed to be an insurmountable 4-2 lead for the Lightning, but Edmonton wouldn’t go away. Leon Draisaitl scored a little more than two minutes into the final period, and Iiro Pakarinen snuck a shot from the right boards past Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy at the near post to level the score 4-4 at 4:29 of the third.
A minute and a half later, Erik Condra was whistled for a high-stick, and the Oilers had an opportunity to pull ahead for the first time all night.
That’s when Braydon Coburn did his best Tiger Woods impression to put the Bolts back in the lead.
With the puck deep in the Lightning end, Coburn backhanded a looping clear high up in the air out of the zone and onto the opposite blue line. Brian Boyle and Edmonton goalie Anders Nilsson both raced to meet the puck, which had a bit of backspin on it, allowing Boyle to get there first. With Nilsson out of position, Boyle slid the puck around Nilsson and out of his reach and shot into the open net from a sharp angle to tally his team-leading second shorthanded goal of the season.
“It almost bounced backwards from my view,” Boyle said. “Maybe it didn’t, but it stopped pretty dead, almost like (Coburn) had a 60-degree wedge there and pulled the string on it. It worked out pretty good. I was hoping it would do that, it did, it was rolling on me and the angle was getting worse and worse but it found a way in thank goodness.”
3. HANDLING PROSPERITY
A disturbing trend has crept in Tampa Bay’s game during its six-game win streak.
For whatever reason, the Lightning haven’t been able been able to hold onto leads.
During the second game of the current streak against Vancouver, the Lightning went up by a goal on two separate occasions only to have the Canucks level the score each time. The Bolts eventually won in overtime.
The Lightning held a two-goal lead going into the third period against Pittsburgh but were thoroughly outplayed over the final 20 minutes. The Penguins scored three-consecutive goals to go in front temporarily until Anton Stralman scored an unreal goal late to force an extra period, where the Bolts eventually prevailed.
Same thing Tuesday.
Tampa Bay held four separate leads against Edmonton, finally getting the last one to stick. Edmonton battled back to level the score after falling behind 1-0 and 2-1. The Lightning appeared to take control midway through the second period when it built a 4-2 advantage heading into the third.
Again, Edmonton fought back.
“The night’s not as great when you give up a two-goal lead in the third period on home ice,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “We’ll adjust. We’re finding ways in situations where earlier in the season we may have panicked and lost complete control of the game.”
That the Lightning were able to stay calm and collected and make a push to go back in front a fourth time speaks well to their resiliency.
That they even had to show that resiliency, however, is a bit of a concern and worth noting on this current streak.