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Special Teams could be key against Maple Leafs

The Lightning will look to be more consistent on special teams when they continue their six-game road trip Tuesday night in Toronto

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning saw how special teams can be both a boost or a hindrance during their 4-1 win at Ottawa on Saturday.

The Lightning scored two power-play goals in the second period to grab control of the game against the Senators. Conversely, the Bolts were sent to the box for back-to-back penalties in the second half of the second period and saw a shift in momentum toward the Senators. 

Video: Bolts take on Maple Leafs in game 2 of the road trip

Ottawa wasn't able to score on either of those power plays, but did score at 5-on-5 late in the second to claw its way back into a game the Lightning had dominated previously.

The Lightning will look to be more consistent on special teams when they continue their six-game road trip Tuesday night in Toronto against the Maple Leafs at the Air Canada Centre.

"That's one thing we try to stress with our group is you don't have to score every single time on the power play, but just don't suck the momentum away from us," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "If you really think about it, if you just go 1-for-5 every game, by the end of the year, you're one of the top power plays in the league. The players don't think that way; they have to go 5-for-5 or it's a failure. We just talk about momentum, and we've had a pretty good run so far. I know it's been short, but our PP's been pretty good and our PK's been excellent."

The Lightning have scored on 5-of-19 power-play opportunities so far this season, a 26.3 percent conversion rate that ranks sixth best in the NHL.

"I think we have more of a shooting mentality," Bolts forward Tyler Johnson said. "When we're doing that, we're getting some results, which is great. We've just got to stick to the system, stick to what works. There's a couple of games here this season where we've kind of already gotten away from it a little bit, but we got back to it last game and we got the results.

"That's just one game though. We've got to keep it going."

The Bolts' penalty kill has been just as solid, allowing only one power-play goal to opponents over 13 times shorthanded. Tampa Bay is one of eight teams in the league to give up only one power-play goal so far this season.

The key, though, is to stay out of the box so teams can't grab momentum away from the Lightning like Ottawa did on Saturday, even if they're not scoring.

"We always talk about our discipline," Johnson said. "You never want to be on the PK. I thought the PK did a good job, but Ottawa got the momentum, and we didn't do enough to settle that down. Discipline's huge. You have to stay out of the box, especially with a good team, especially with guys like you have on Toronto who can make you pay."

Video: Killorn on hot start to 16-17 SeasonRED-HOT START: Lightning forward Alex Killorn leads the Bolts for goals after netting his fourth of the season in the third period of Saturday's win in Ottawa.

Killorn has scored in four of the five games so far for the Lightning and ranks tied for fourth in the NHL for goals.

"I think I've just been fortunate to be in situations where I'm getting good looks at the net, trying to shoot as much as I can," he said. "I just think it's one of those things where things are going well for me right now. I just want to keep this momentum going and hoping to help us out tonight."

The Lightning saw in last season's Eastern Conference Final how having balanced scoring up and down the lineup can be that extra push a team needs to reach the sport's pinnacle. The Pittsburgh Penguins' third line of Patric Hornqvist, Phil Kessel and Nick Bonino, nicknamed the HBK Line, was arguably the difference in the ECF, giving the Penguins the scoring punch they needed to complement Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and go on to win the Stanley Cup.

Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman said in the offseason one of his top goals was to get the kind of balanced scoring throughout the lineup the Penguins were able to ice last season.

With Killorn sitting at four goals currently and fellow third line-mate Valtteri Filppula right behind with three, the Bolts are showing, at least early on, they have the talent and depth at the forward position to be just as potent as the Penguins were a year ago.

Video: Cooper on Tuesday's matchup vs. TORSCORING FIRST: The Lightning snapped one negative trend in Ottawa when they scored the game's opening goal, the first time in five tries this season they were able to do so.

They'll look to end another dubious stat tonight in Toronto with a first-period goal. The Lightning have yet to score in the first period this season and have been outscored 5-0 by opponents in the first.

"We've talked about it, not in depth," Killorn said. "I know it's something we work on. We've got to give ourselves the best chance to win. Going down in the first period, having those first periods that aren't great, it's just really not helping us. It's something we're definitely looking at to improve on."

The Bolts are outscoring teams 16-9 in the second and third periods combined, so the lack of opening period goals hasn't been too detrimental to their success so far.

But the Bolts will need to be more consistent throughout all 60 minutes if they want to continue to pile up victories like they've done in the early going.

ODDS AND ENDS: Ben Bishop was the first Lightning goaltender off the ice from morning skate at the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday and therefore looks to be the Bolts' starter tonight. Bishop won his first two starts before dropping his last decision after allowing four goals on 16 shots in a 4-0 loss to Colorado…Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos scored the 109th power-play goal of his career in Ottawa and is just three power-play goals from tying Vincent Lecavalier (112) for most in Lightning franchise history…Andrej Sustr will play in his 200th career NHL game tonight provided he's in the lineup as expected. Sustr is looking for his first point this season after setting career highs for goals (4), assists (17) and points (21) a year ago.

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