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Burns: 3 Things we learned from a bounce-back win over Edmonton

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 3-1 win over the Oilers

by Bryan Burns /

Tampa Bay was in a funk after an underwhelming display Saturday night against Boston in a critical Atlantic Division matchup, the Bruins leaving Tampa with a 3-0 win and pulling to within two points of the Lightning in the division race.

Luckily for the Bolts, they were back on the ice less than 24 hours later to quickly erase the memory of that dreadful result.

And a 3-1 victory over the Edmonton Oilers in which they overcame an early bounce against, were perfect (!) on the penalty kill and not only closed out a one-goal lead in the third period but added to it was just the tonic the Lightning needed.

The Bolts inch closer to a playoff berth and can secure their spot as early as tonight if New Jersey falls to Anaheim in regulation.

How were the Lightning able to recover from Saturday's disaster?

We'll break it down in Three Things we learned from Sunday's bounce-back victory.

Video: Domingue | Postgame TBL 3, EDM 1

Just 14 seconds into the game, Lightning goaltender Louis Domingue, making his eighth start of the season for the Bolts and second at AMALIE Arena, went to play a dump in behind the net but let the puck slip away from him. Edmonton's Ty Rattie was there to collect the mistake and banked a shot off Domingue and into the net from behind the goal line for an early 1-0 Oilers lead.

With the way things had been going for the Lightning, getting blown out 7-4 by Ottawa Tuesday and shut out 3-0 by Boston Saturday in their last two performances, the Bolts could have let the early gaffe affect their play the rest of the game.

It had the opposite effect.

"Honestly, we treated it as, if you had a microphone on the bench after that one went in, it was pretty comical some of the comments that were going on," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper explained after the game. "The big joke was we felt we had a lot of time to come back. Our team's one thing, but how about the goaltender who gets a tough break there and lets that one in and then comes in and doesn't give one up for the rest of the night. Says a lot about the mental makeup."

The Lightning put the mistake behind them and went about their business of trying to make up for it, tying the game on Victor Hedman's bomb from the blue line that took a deflection off an Edmonton stick and beat Oilers goalie Al Montoya to level the score 1-1 at 15:12 of the opening period.

"We knew we probably had to score two goals to win the game anyway," said Bolts captain Steven Stamkos, who finished the game with two assists for his 22nd multi-point game of the season. "For them to get one, especially that way, I don't think it really affected us at all, it was just 'Okay, let's just make sure we get the next one and we'll go from there.' We got a good bounce off Heddy's shot as well, so it was kind of even. We just pushed from there, and I thought today was a solid effort."

Domingue recovered too. For a goalie who hasn't gotten a lot of playing time in Tampa Bay, who's bounced back and forth between the Lightning and their AHL affiliate in Syracuse to stay sharp, he performed remarkably well after what could have been a confidence-shaking moment.

"I came in ready. I was feeling good," said Domingue, who made 29-of-30 saves to collect his fourth-straight victory. "There's days where you don't feel good, you give up a goal like that and it's going to be harder. For me, I washed it away right away. It's one of those things. Guys were coming and tap on your pad. It's just a bad break. You can't do anything about it. You're just trying to build after one save at a time and get yourself back in the game."

Video: EDM@TBL: Kucherov buries backhander for second goal

It's hard to imagine anything positive coming out of Saturday's defeat to the Bruins, but Domingue said a late penalty kill by the Lightning after they had already surrendered two power-play goals gave the group a bit of confidence coming into Sunday's game versus Edmonton.

The unit's renewed belief showed as the Bolts' PK was perfect on the night, killing off all five Oilers power plays, including a 5-on-3 for 28 seconds, to spark Tampa Bay's bounce-back win.

"Tonight, we won the special teams battle, and we get a much-deserved win," Stamkos said. "PK is something that is not for a lack of effort. We had a couple bad bounces today where we did a lot of things right, including Louis in net. It starts with him and then our defense, especially (Ryan McDonagh) tonight, blocking a ton of shots and the forwards being in the right lanes and battling to get back to take crossing passes away. When we had pressure up ice, we hemmed them in. It was great to see and hopefully it's a confidence boost."

The critical kill came in the third period with the Lightning up 2-1 and Edmonton's power play finally showing some teeth after two rather pedestrian attempts in the second. On that kill, the Bolts PK scrapped and clawed and dove and blocked shots and did everything in its power to keep the puck out of the net. At one point, a loose puck threatened to slip into the far post, but McDonagh was there to kick it out with his skate. What the penalty killers couldn't take away, Domingue was there to spectacularly keep the Oilers off the board.

The Lightning penalty kill found its way on Sunday night thanks to an urgency and desperation that had gone missing in recent weeks.

"We were sacrificing our bodies," Domingue said. "Our D-men were just blocking shots like a goalie tonight. It made a huge difference at a huge time in the game."

The Lightning have struggled of late closing out games with the lead, giving up goals in the third period to necessitate overtime. Fortunately, for the Bolts, they've been able to prevail in most of those overtime or shootout games, but the fact those games even made it to overtime was a troubling trend.

On Sunday, again, the Lightning entered the third period with a 2-1 lead.

And despite having to kill off three penalties in the final period, including the aforementioned 5-on-3, they shut down the Oilers over the final 20 minutes and even tacked on an insurance goal to see the victory through to the finish line in regulation.

"We had a chance to play out some scenarios tonight that we'd been struggling with in the past and that's coming back in games after a tough bounce, which we did after that 14 seconds in, and then playing with a one-goal lead in the third," Stamkos said. "I thought we did a great job of securing it, getting an extra one and not sitting back and keeping the pressure on."

Even at the end when Edmonton pulled the goalie to try to get something going, the Lightning played solid defensively, getting in passing lanes, disrupting the Oilers' attack and blocking shots when they had to.

The win was a solid group effort made even sweeter by the fact the three areas the Lightning have faltered of late - sound defense, penalty killing and closing games out - were all strengths on Sunday.

"I thought we played pretty well, worked really hard," Brayden Point said. "We had a lot of time in their end and we were really skating back and playing defense and I think that's what led to our offense."

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