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Burns: 3 things we learned from the Bolts return

by Bryan Burns / Tampa Bay Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the Bolts used the three-day holiday break to “reset” after an up-and-down start to the season.

On Saturday, they hit the play button on the second half of the 2015-16 campaign.

And they went out and played one of their better games to date.

Buoyed by three-straight Columbus penalties within three seconds of one another, the Lightning erased a 2-1 deficit, scoring twice on the extended advantage to wrest the lead for good and pull away.

Tampa Bay has now won four of its last six games and pulled within a point of the final spot in the Eastern Conference playoff chase.

And with a struggling Montreal coming to town Monday followed by a New York Rangers team just 3-6-1 over their last 10 to follow Wednesday, the Atlantic Division standings could look completely different – at least as far as the Lightning are concerned -- by the time 2016 rolls around.

What can we take out of last night’s win? And are the Lightning ready to make a prolonged charge in the standings.

Three Things from a quality win to start the season’s second half ahead.

1. MARCHESSAULT STREAKING 

Chicago Blackhawks winger Patrick Kane is the talk of the NHL this season thanks to a historic point streak that reached 26 games, the longest by an American-born NHL player.

Jonathan Marchessault extended his modest-by-comparison point streak to six games – a Lightning best in 2015-16 – after tallying assists on both of Steven Stamkos’ power-play goals.

Could Marchessault challenge Kane’s incredible run?

No, not likely.

But we can dream, right?

“I’m thinking about it,” Marchessault joked when asked if he could pull off the impossible. “No, I don’t think so. I’m just trying to work hard every game and see what happens.”

Two months ago, Marchessault was in Syracuse. A month later, he was with Tampa Bay but searching for a regular spot in the rotation.

Now, because of injuries, he’s become as dangerous offensively as anyone on the Lightning right now with three goals and four assists in his last six. Marchessault averages 0.53 points per game, third best on the Lightning behind Stamkos (0.78) and Nikita Kucherov (0.72).

Marchessault, a bit of a journeyman over his first four years in professional hockey, has played himself into a permanent spot in the NHL in his fifth, and the Bolts are reaping the benefits.

“I just try to skate, try to help each other on the ice,” he said. “I want to bring an energy to the lineup, still try to make my way into being a regular in the NHL.”

Pretty safe to say, Marchessault’s made it.

2. SCORING FROM THE D

Last season, the Lightning got a number of offensive contributions from their defensemen.

Newcomer Anton Stralman set career highs for goals (9), assists (30) and points (39).

Victor Hedman scored double digit goals (10) for the second-straight season.

Jason Garrison tied a season-high for assists (30). Andrej Sustr smashed his with 13.

Tampa Bay led the NHL in goals last season; the 32 combined goals scored by Lightning defensemen playing a part in the offense’s success.

But goals have been hard to come by for Bolts blueliners in 2015-16, the group combining for just seven goals through the first two months of the season.

Of late, however, defensemen have gotten more involved in the Lightning offense, and the Bolts are scoring more as a result.

In the last five games, the Lightning have scored 19 goals, the most over any five-game stretch this season. Bolts defensemen have contributed five of them.

On Saturday, Nikita Nesterov notched his second goal in three games, and Jason Garrison broke a 34-game goal drought with his third-period tally to add to the Lightning lead.

It was the first time since Opening Night when Lightning defensemen scored two goals in a game this season.

“You want everyone to get involved,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “It’s just kind of how we play, how we play offense. But, it’s getting five (goals). We’ve got to get away from the ones and the twos and I like the fact that we only gave up two tonight, we only gave up two to Vancouver. Unfortunately, we scored one, but we’ve got to get back to that cusp of getting three or more goals a game, and it gives us a chance to win. When we’re doing that, we’re winning these games.”

Lately, Lightning defensemen have been contributing to the goal count, allowing the Bolts to reach three, four, five goals a game.

And it’s no coincidence the Lightning have strung together a few wins in the last few weeks as a result.

3. VLAD THE IMPALER

Lightning forward Vladislav Namestnikov has made his presence felt offensively this season, the Russian ranking tied for fourth on the Bolts for goals (6) and points (15).

On Saturday, he showed off a bit of his grit and toughness too.

When Columbus’ Scott Hartnell ran Ben Bishop behind the Bolts goal, Namestnikov went off. Ryan Johansen intercepted Namestnikov before he could get to Hartnell, and the two starting throwing punches, the 5-foot-11, 180 pound Namestnikov getting off a couple good shots before the pair fell to the ice.

The crowd roared its approval, and Namestnikov responded, throwing his hands up in the air, asking for more noise.

Amalie Arena eagerly obliged.

Later in the game, Namestnikov again had his nose in the middle of a skirmish and showed a fiery side not often seen from the 23 year old, all part of the continuing maturation process of one of the Lightning’s best young talents.

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