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Burns: 3 Things we learned from the preseason opener

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 4-1 loss to Carolina on Tuesday

by Bryan Burns /

There weren't a lot of positives from Tampa Bay's preseason-opening 4-1 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes at AMALIE Arena Tuesday night.

"It was pretty ugly," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos summarized succinctly.

Tampa Bay fell behind 2-0 in the first period on a pair of goals starting goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy would probably like to have back. The Lightning's penalty kill allowed two goals on its six opportunities on the ice. And Carolina controlled play for large portions of the game, doubling up the Bolts in the shots column with a 35-17 advantage after 60 minutes.

Still, Tuesday's loss will be a good learning experience for the Lightning, who get another crack at the Canes on Wednesday in Raleigh.

"We played a team with a bunch of really hungry guys that were fired up to impress," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "And we had a bunch of guys in the lineup getting their first bumps in camp against a bunch of hungry guys and that's how it turned out and that was it. It's the first exhibition game of seven and we've got a whole bunch of guys to get into games."

The Bolts will get a look at some of those other guys in preseason game No. 2.

But first, Three Things from a loss to Carolina in the preseason opener.

Video: Cooper post game interview 9/18/2018

If you happen to catch a Lightning practice session, you'll usually hear, at least once, head coach Jon Cooper blow his whistle to stop play and yell: "Shoot the puck."

No doubt, if Cooper had a whistle on the bench during Tuesday's opener, he would have used it multiple times. He probably would have thrown the whistle on the ice too after exhausting it of its ability to function.

The Lightning have been guilty of overpassing in the past.

Tuesday, it was downright felonious.

Tampa Bay registered just 17 shots on the night, which would have been a season low last season. In the second period, the Lightning had only three shots. The Hurricanes owned a 26-10 shots advantage after two periods. They also were up 3-0 as a result.

"I don't think we take much good from tonight," Stamkos said. "Hopefully shake the cobwebs and just continue to get better. Obviously some things we've got to work on, but it's the first preseason game, just nice to get back into game action and just continue to improve."

The Lightning gave their penalty kill plenty of work against Carolina after committing six penalties, and the results were less than encouraging.

Carolina converted its first power play of the game, Lucas Wallmark wristing a shot from near the left dot past the glove of Vasilevskiy at the far post to extend the Hurricanes' lead to 2-0.

In the third period, after Dominik Masin was whistled for hooking following a turnover in his own end, Carolina capitalized again, Andrei Svechnikov getting open below the hash marks to easily bury a shot into the back of the net.

Overall, the Lightning penalty kill was 4-for-6, not horrible but not what the coaching staff wanted to see either.

"It was a special teams game," Lightning forward Mathieu Joseph said. "Not a lot of 5-on-5 out there. Always tough to gain momentum if your power play isn't really working and you're on the penalty kill. It was like that for them too. We should have found a way to be better. I don't think we competed, and we've got to do a better job."

There were some good moments from the penalty kill. Joseph combined with Tyler Johnson up top to create havoc at times. The duo produced a couple solid shorthanded chances. A lot of young players earned valuable experience on the kill too.

But the Lightning were inconsistent on the penalty kill last season, and, through the first preseason game at least, it appears those issues persist.

Video: Mathieu Joseph on first NHL preseason goal

A pair of forwards who shined in their pro debuts for Syracuse last season and are fighting for roster spots stood out for the Bolts against Carolina.

In addition to his aforementioned work on the penalty kill, Mathieu Joseph produced Tampa Bay's only goal when he crashed the back post on a Lightning power play and redirected Taylor Raddysh's pass from the right wing past Carolina goalie Alex Nedeljkovic, who entered for starter Petr Mrazek about midway through the game.

"You look to see how guys, are they taking steps every year? And to me he is," Cooper said. "He just keeps taking the steps. He is a perfect example of a kid that's checking off all the boxes as he makes his way to the NHL. He's not quite there yet, but he's making a case."

And Alexander Volkov got an opportunity to skate on the Lightning's top line with Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov and was all over the ice. The Russian winger had a couple dangerous passes in the second period that nearly produced scores. The first was intended for Stamkos, but the Lightning captain was tied up and could only direct the puck wide. The second almost caromed into the Carolina net off one of the Canes.

"As a whole we didn't create much offensively tonight, but you can see the skillset that he has and he made some nice passes out there," Stamkos said of Volkov. "He's definitely a guy that can see the plays and make them."

There aren't many roster spots available on this Lightning team out of training camp. But Joseph and Volkov certainly staked their claim Tuesday to grab one of the precious few.

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