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Lightning have made habit of killing penalties

Tampa Bay effective playing shorthanded but determined to stay out of box

by David Satriano @davidsatriano / Staff Writer

NEW YORK -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a lot of success on the penalty kill during the Stanley Cup Playoffs, but would prefer not to have to rely on it so often.

In their first two games of the Eastern Conference Second Round against the New York Islanders, Tampa Bay has been shorthanded nine times and allowed two goals, but it could have been a lot worse.

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1. Game 3 is at Barclays Center on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The Lightning have been assessed a League-high 54 penalty minutes, but and have killed 31-of-34 shorthanded situations. They have been shorthanded at least four times in each of their seven playoff games.

"We want to stay out of the box," Lightning forward Brian Boyle said after practice Monday. "You are really playing with fire when you get into penalty trouble and are over three or four [per game]. You want to stay at two or three.

"We've been pretty good all year. We had a tough stretch to start the year. I think we finished seventh [during the regular season] but we were 30th in November I think. ... [The Islanders have] scored [on the power play] in each game, but we have done a pretty good job. Everyone buys in. We have lanes, we have guys willing to block shots."

The Lightning have 32 shorthanded blocked shots in the postseason, led by forward Ryan Callahan's 10. Defenseman Matt Carle has five, and Boyle and defensemen Victor Hedman and Braydon Coburn each have four.

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Lightning coach Jon Cooper agreed with Boyle that the team has not been afraid to disrupt passing and shooting lanes.

"The other thing is guys are laying out, they are in shot lanes, they are blocking shots," he said. "When you have guys committed to do that, it just makes it that much harder on the power play [for the other team]. When you combine all that together, you end up playing with a lot of confidence. They just feel like when they go out there they are going to kill the penalty off and that really helps."

Despite missing defenseman Anton Stralman, a top penalty killer who has been out since March 25 because of a fractured left leg, the Lightning have made adjustments. In 7:21 of shorthanded time in Game 2, the Lightning killed four of five Islanders power plays and allowed five shots on goal.

"The joking answer is obviously we are getting a lot of practice at it," Cooper said. "I think we've really settled on a core group of guys that have been killing for us and now they are all kind of working in unison for us. When another team is making a mistake we are really jumping on that opportunity to put them under pressure and to have them make plays under pressure."

Boyle credited goalie Ben Bishop, a finalist for the Vezina Trophy, for the success on the penalty kill.

"The No. 1 reason is our goaltender," Boyle said. "We have a breakdown and Bishop is there for us. [Bishop] has been unbelievable. He can play the puck really well, he can break up the forecheck. It's a huge positive. It starts with [Bishop]."

Coburn, who led the Lightning in average shorthanded ice time per game (2:17) during the regular season, said the penalty kill has improved throughout the season.

"I think for whatever reason at the beginning of the year it wasn't working," he said. "But I think there's just been a kind of renewed commitment to the fundamentals of what we were doing and getting everyone on the same page. And once you do that, you set yourself up with structure.

"Our goaltender is our best penalty killer and our goaltender has been great all year and throughout the playoffs. I think everybody knows what we are doing and what we are trying to accomplish out there, and it's just a matter of executing."

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