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Burns: 3 Things we learned from seven in a row

Beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 6-3 win over the Rangers on Monday

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Monday's 6-3 victory over the New York Rangers wasn't the smoothest performance by any stretch for the Tampa Bay Lightning during their current seven-game win streak.

And yet, the Lightning still defeated a pretty good opponent by three goals, put up six goals on a team averaging 3.1 goals allowed per game and tallied two of those goals on the power play to double up the Rangers.

"Not our ideal game I would say in this little streak that we had," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said following the win. "We're getting the results we wanted. We're playing some pretty impressive hockey. Tonight, we allowed some holes to get into our game. We scored our way out of it."

The Lightning have been scoring their way out of lots of situations of late, having put up 13 goals over the last two games and netting five or more goals in six of the seven wins on their current run.

In doing so, they've opened up a wide gap between themselves and their competitors at the top of the NHL standings. The Lightning are now in first place in the league by eight points over second-place Toronto, who the Bolts will face Thursday to close out a four-game homestand.

Things are going so good for the Lightning right now that even when they're not at their best, they can win by multiple goals.

Here's how they did it on Monday.

Video: NYR@TBL: Stamkos sets Bolts record with ninth hatty

1. THE CAPTAIN LEADS THE WAY
The last two games for Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos might be his best two games of the season.

On Sunday, Stamkos netted two goals and added two assists for his 13th career game recording four or more points, a Lightning franchise record.

Against the Rangers, Stamkos continued to rewrite the record books.

Stamkos netted a pair of power-play goals to tie the game up two-separate times after the Rangers had opened up one-goal leads. And then in the third period with New York reeling, Stamkos struck again, this time at 5-on-5 with a one-timer from the high slot off a 3-on-2 rush to complete his ninth career hat trick and first since Oct. 13, 2014 versus Montreal.
"I knew it hadn't been for a while, I didn't know the exact date," Stamkos said postgame, grinning.

Stamkos became Tampa Bay's all-time leader for career hat tricks on Monday, passing Martin St. Louis, who finished his Lightning career with eight.

"He's a natural," Victor Hedman said. "He's proven that for 11 years now that he's a true goal scorer in this league. He's one of the best there is, and when we can get him the puck, we're in good shape."

Stamkos reached a couple more milestones in his record-setting performance against the Rangers. His first power-play goal was his 250th career power-play point. His second power-play goal, scored from the same spot on the opposite end of the ice, was his 700th career NHL point. He joins Martin St. Louis (953 pts.) and Vincent Lecavalier (874 pts.) as the only Lightning players to reach the 700-point milestone.

Fitting, too, that Stamkos would record point No. 700 on his patented left circle power-play one-timer. This one proved a little more difficult than some of the others, Stamkos falling as he shot as the pass from Hedman was slightly off target.

"He scores them all different ways in that area," Cooper said. "He's just got a knack of putting his body in the - because every pass isn't the perfect pass to him there. And when it's not in your wheelhouse, how can you adjust to it? And he's perfected a way to adjust himself to taking those shots. They were good ones and timely ones."

 Video: Stamkos on his hat-trick against the Rangers

2. POWER SURGE
The Lightning power play has been a bit overshadowed by the penalty kill this season, mainly because the PK was so bad last season and has rebounded to be a top 10 unit in the league in 2018-19.

But, like it has been for a few seasons now, the power play has been lethal for the Lightning.

And on Monday, it kept Tampa Bay in the game when New York was getting the better of the Bolts over the first period.

After Kevin Hayes opened the game's scoring by a throwing a puck on net that bounced off the skate of Ryan McDonagh and into the net, the Lightning tied the game 1-1 on Stamkos' first goal of the night, the captain hammering a one-timer past Henrik Lundqvist less than two minutes after Hayes put the Rangers in the lead.

"We've been able to exploit some lanes," Stamkos said. "Obviously, when you have Kuch on that side and Pointer in the hole, there's a lot of respect on the ice from the opponents. Someone's going to be open. I've been fortunate to be able to get some good looks, especially from Heddy the last couple games where he's put it in my wheelhouse. It's nice to see those go in. Next game they're going to be keying on me and maybe someone else will be open."

Hayes put New York back in front before the end of the first period with his second goal of the game. The Rangers nearly extended the lead to 3-1 when they got a 2-on-1 shorthanded break, Louis Domingue making a key stop to keep it a one-goal deficit for the Bolts.

At 6:19 of the second period, Hedman found Stamkos in the left circle again on the power play, this pass off the mark a bit but Stamkos still managing to fire it into the back of the net to tie the game again.

"We were a little loose today," Cooper said. "Fortunately for us, they were taking quite a few penalties, and we were able to capitalize and get back into it."

The Lightning have scored two power-play goals in two-straight games and four of their last six games. Entering Monday's contest, the power play ranked second in the NHL.

Against the Rangers, the power play allowed the Lightning to remain within striking distance until they could get their 5-on-5 game on track.

 Video: NYR@TBL: Cirelli steals the puck and beats Lundqvist

3. THE COMFORTABLE GOAL
After Ryan McDonagh scored on his former team on a rush from the left circle to give the Lightning their first lead 3-2 at 12:42 of the second period, Tampa Bay had a number of near misses and close calls attempting to extend its advantage.

On a 2-on-1 with Ryan Callahan leading the charge and Stamkos off to his right, Callahan called his own number, shooting a puck that Lundqvist batted down, the puck laying an inch from the goal line, Lundqvist able to trap it under his body before Stamkos could pounce on the loose change.

On an early third-period power play, Stamkos nearly had his hattrick a little earlier when Nikita Kucherov set him up courtesy of a beautiful cross-ice pass through traffic onto the back post, Stamkos denied again by Lundqvist, who slid over in time to block away his one-timer.

The Lightning were in danger of letting the Rangers hang around long enough to score and tie the game up.

That's what made Anthony Cirelli's play to produce the Bolts' fourth goal a vital moment in Tampa Bay's victory.

On a puck dumped into the offensive zone, Cirelli chased down Fredrik Claesson and stole the puck from him. Then, without breaking stride, made a strong move toward goal, faking a shot at the near post and depositing the puck at the far post to give the Lightning a 4-2 lead and a little bit of breathing room.

"He probably doesn't see it, but the way he plays, he can drag the team into the fight," Cooper said. "It's hard to go out on the next shift and follow his shift and not give that same type of effort."

Cirelli's goal gave the Lightning a certain level of comfort up 4-2. His empty-net tally with 39 seconds remaining sealed the win. He's now on a three-game goal streak and has four goals over his last three games, doubling his goal total from the first 29 games of the season when he had four.

"His effort is outstanding," Cooper said. "You've got to remember, he only maybe played 30 games last year, so he's still a long way away from even getting a full season in. He's learning the league as well. He's learning what he can do and what he can't do. And as the good student he is, he knows what he can do now. His confidence is way up, and he deserves everything he's getting."

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