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Burns: 3 Things we learned from another shootout win

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 3-2 shootout win over the Canadiens

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning extended their win streak to five games and point streak to 10 games after prevailing 3-2 in a shootout against the Montreal Canadiens Saturday afternoon at AMALIE Arena.

That the Lightning needed extra time to defeat the Canadiens shouldn't come as a surprise.

Seven of the last eight games the Bolts have played have gone to overtime. Four of those games have needed a shootout to determine a winner.

The Lightning have needed one of those extra points too. Boston continues to surge as the NHL schedule heads into the final four weeks of the season. The Bruins defeated Chicago 7-4 on Saturday but couldn't make up any ground on the Lightning, the Bolts remaining six points in front (although the Bruins have three games in hand) as they continue to pile up wins too.

The Lightning became the first NHL team to reach 100 points this season and the fifth team in Tampa Bay history to do so.

How did they get to the century mark?

We'll examine today's effort with Three Things we learned from another shootout win.

Video: MTL@TBL: Point roofs a shot on Niemi in the shootout

Tampa Bay improved to a perfect 5-0 in shootouts on home ice following Saturday's victory as well as 6-2 overall in the skills competition, the Lightning tied for the NHL lead for shootout wins this season.

It seems, especially of late, whenever the Bolts find themselves in a shootout, they have supreme confidence they're going to prevail.

Having Brayden Point at your disposal will do that.

So, too, will the pair of goalies the Lightning can send out to stop pucks.

Point, like he's done since the moment he entered the League, continues to lift the Lightning in shootouts, his Second Round try beating Montreal goaltender Antti Niemi to give the Bolts a 1-0 advantage.

Point netted his fifth shootout goal of the season, just one off the NHL lead. Point already has 10 shootout goals for his career, only three back of the franchise record of 13 by Brad Richards. Point's 67% shootout conversion rate is the best in Lightning history for players with more than one shootout attempt.

But the shootout play of Tampa Bay's goaltenders can't be overlooked either. Andrei Vasilevskiy has developed into one of the NHL's best shootout goalies at an early stage in his career. And Louis Domingue proved Saturday he's no slouch either.

Domingue stopped three of Montreal's four attempts - only Jonathan Drouin shooting in the Third Round with the game on the line was able to score - to keep the Lightning in the game until Nikita Kucherov could win it with his Fourth Round conversion.

"It's a combination of everything," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said when asked about his team's confidence heading into shootouts. "You can sit here and say Point but Stammer, I know he didn't score tonight, but he's had a heck of a run in the shootout. Kucherov, all the guys, they've really done well. But, ultimately, you need to get saves and our guys, both of them, have made saves in the shootout. When they're making saves, it takes a lot of pressure off the guy's shooting."

Video: McDonagh on his TBL debut

After sitting out Tampa Bay's last six games with an upper-body injury since coming over to the Lightning at the trade deadline, coveted defenseman Ryan McDonagh finally made his Bolts debut Saturday versus Montreal, the team that drafted him with the 12th overall pick in the 2007 NHL Draft.

After shaking off some early rust from inactivity, McDonagh acquitted himself quite well in his first game.

The 28-year-old blueliner skated 19:15, the fourth-highest time on ice among Lightning defensemen, and blocked two shots, had two takeaways, dished out a hit and took one shot.

McDonagh even got some special teams work with the Lightning, skating 2:33 on the penalty kill, tied for the third-highest shorthanded time on ice for the Bolts.

"I got a lot more confident as the game went on," McDonagh said. "It was a fast-paced game. You miss a month, it takes a little bit to get up to speed, especially the style that they play here. I thought as the game continued my legs got better and felt more comfortable out there with the guys."

McDonagh spent much of the game paired with Dan Girardi, his former partner for a number of seasons while with the New York Rangers.

"Obviously, haven't played together all year and (McDonagh's) first game in a little while, we started off a little slow but I though we finished real well," Girardi said. "The penalty kill at the end there, we kind of were clicking. It felt good to be out there with a guy you're familiar with, but I thought overall we stuck with it tonight. We didn't try to do anything fancy. We just kept playing a North-South game, and it worked out for us."

Count Cooper among those impressed with McDonagh's ability to fit into the Bolts blueline immediately despite skating his first game since February 7.

"He hasn't played since the All-Star break or a little after that," Cooper said. "For him to come in and have the impact he did in such a positive way -- because those first games are tough for just timing and you can't replicate a game in practice -- it was seamless for him."

Video: Cooper | Postgame TBL 3, MTL 2 F/SO

Tampa Bay's penalty kill has played to mixed results this season.

For a time early in the season, the Lightning had one of the top penalty kills in the NHL. The PK went through a slump in January into February, though, and has been so-so since.

Currently, the Lightning rank just 24th in the League on the penalty kill at 77.5 percent, a troubling statistic for a team with Stanley Cup aspirations.

But on Saturday, despite giving up an early power-play goal to Montreal on an unlucky broken play, the penalty kill might have been the unit that salvaged the shootout win for the Bolts.

With the Canadiens up 2-1 in the third period and searching for that third goal on a mid-period power play that would have given them a near insurmountable two-goal lead, the Lightning penalty kill held strong. The special teams unit didn't give up a quality scoring chance and produced one of its own when Alex Killorn fired a shorthanded shot off the crossbar.

After Nikita Kucherov tied the game 2-2 with 6:17 to go, Montreal again was given a power-play opportunity and a chance to go back in the lead with four minutes to go following a high-sticking call on Chris Kunitz.

Again, the penalty kill snuffed out the Canadiens' power play, not only keeping the Habs off the scoreboard and not letting them get any good looks at goal but also generating momentum for the Bolts as a result.

"I think the PK was good all night," Girardi said. "The first goal was a tough break. It kind of just hits my knee and goes right to the guy for a one-timer. That's going to happen. I think for the most part we did a really good job on the PK and got some momentum off that."

McDonagh provided some big minutes on the penalty kill in his first game with the Lightning, and his arrival could help the special teams unit become more consistent as a potential playoff appearance approaches.

"He was extremely noticeable on the penalty kill," Cooper said of McDonagh." His poise and composure in some situations we may not have got those pucks out and McDonagh made sure we got those pucks out."

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