On Feb. 11, the Tampa Bay Lightning wrapped up their longest road trip of the season. They played 6 games in 10 days, featuring matchups against the Dallas Stars, Chicago Blackhawks, and Detroit Red Wings. The Lightning went 4-1-1, putting them in second place in the Central Division with a game in hand over the division-leading Carolina Hurricanes. Let’s look at three takeaways from their extended road trip.
It is never ideal to be playing from behind, but the Lightning proved that they are never really out of a game. They won two of their games despite trailing their opponent entering the third period. In their first of three matchups against the Blackhawks, the Lightning erased a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force overtime. Alex Killorn went on to get the game-winning goal by deflecting Victor Hedman’s shot with just 0.1 seconds left on the clock.
Just four days later, the Lightning went into the third period trailing the Red Wings by a goal. They ultimately tied the game, forced overtime, and Blake Coleman lit the lamp to win the game in the extra period.
Their biggest comeback was in their third game against the Blackhawks. With just under 17 minutes to go in the second period, the Lightning found themselves down 3-0. They wasted little time digging themselves out of the hole, scoring four goals to finish the second period. They won the game 6-3 after scoring six straight to erase the three-goal deficit. It is never ideal to be behind in a game, but the Lightning showed resilience on this road trip.
Special Teams Paying Dividends
The special teams performance played a large role in the Lightning’s success over the past six games. Their power play was successful approximately 30 percent of the time, scoring 8 goals in 26 opportunities. Overall this season, the Lightning have a 28.1 power-play percentage, good for fourth-best in the league.
The penalty kill has been even more impressive. During their road trip, the Lightning allowed just 3 goals on 21 power-play attempts by their opponents. While playing with a man down, they have been able to not only shut down their opponents but also create scoring chances. Anthony Cirelli scored this goal against the Blackhawks to tie Tyler Johnson for fourth-most shorthanded goals in franchise history.
In 25 games this season, the Lightning boast an 87.5 penalty kill percentage. This is second only to the Boston Bruins, who currently lead the league with an 88.8 penalty kill percentage. The Lightning have been able to not only stay in games but win them because of their success on special teams.
Tyler Johnson Changes Position
Tyler Johnson simply looked like a different player during the road trip. This is in large part due to a line change made by head coach Jon Cooper. Most recently, Johnson has primarily played as a winger. However, he was moved to the center position during the first game against the Blackhawks. Playing between Barclay Goodrow and Blake Coleman, Johnson’s game came to life. When asked about the line change, Johnson said,
“You just try to play wherever the team needs you, whatever line it may be, doing whatever role it is…That’s kind of been the biggest thing for me. It’s working right now. It’s fun to play with them, and hopefully we just continue doing that.”
Johnson and his new linemates had their biggest impact in Tampa’s come-from-behind win against the Red Wings. The 30-year-old forward scored a goal in the second period of the contest and assisted on Coleman’s overtime winner. Johnson finished the road trip with a goal, two assists, and 12 shots on goal. The Lightning’s failure to trade him this offseason has turned out to be a blessing in disguise.
The Lightning didn’t finish off the road trip quite the way they wanted to. They lost to the Red Wings 6-4, ending their nine-game point streak. It also ended their 20-game point streak against the team from Motor City. Despite outshooting the Red Wings 44-23, the Lightning couldn’t erase a three-goal deficit caused by a series of errors and a multitude of turnovers. A game like this was bound to happen eventually and the Lightning will bounce back upon their return to Tampa.
The Lightning head home on Saturday to host the Nashville Predators. Amalie Arena will see fans for the first time this season, welcoming a maximum of 3,800 to the stands. The Lightning will kick off the festivities with the full raising of the 2019-20 Stanley Cup championship banner.
Andrew is a freelance writer who covers the Tampa Bay Lightning at The Hockey Writers. He is a passionate hockey fan who grew up near Tampa, Florida. He is a father to a Golden Retriever and is studying to be a Physician Assistant.