Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper has been worried about his team’s play recently, but Lightning screwed up his game one step Tuesday night in Dallas when it mattered most.
With his club last 3-1 against the stars, Cooper saw that his side wasted the two-goal advantage when Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov lost in the last 2:06 of the regulation.
Beginners Ross Colton and Brayden Point, however, lost in the shootout session, goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy filled Radulov in the third round and Lightning won 4-3 to improve to 16-0-0 in matches as they have led into the third period.
Cooper and Lightning, who share the top spot in the Central Division with state rival Florida Panthers, return to Sunshine State for a couple of home games against the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday and Saturday.
“I was a little disappointed with how we’ve played the last week (as) puck handling issues with our game that I think led us down a bad path,” said Cooper, whose team lost 4-1 Monday at home to Nashville. “We brought it up (Monday) and today on how we need to play to succeed.
“For much of the game, I thought that was what we did.”
A steady influence has been the defense Victor Hedman, who recorded his 500th NHL point when he helped Steve Stamko’s leading 14 goals for the 3-1 advantage.
The Swedish defender’s 27 points (five goals, 22 assists) in 28 matches lead all defenders.
“(The 500 points) means the world,” says Hedman. “Reaching milestones is always fun. It’s a big milestone and hopefully a few more.”
Lightning have won 10 of their last 13 (10-2-1) and have only lost twice at home (10-2-0).
Against Chicago, the defending Stanley Cup champions have won four of five (4-0-1) and have a 22-12 goal advantage over the Blackhawks, who are 3-5-1 in their last nine games.
Chicago took a 3-1 lead over the Panthers in Sunrise, Fla., On Monday night, but terrible play on special teams hit the Blackhawks, who ended up losing 6-3.
Brandon Hagel’s third goal put Chicago up 3-1 at 13:02 of the second period, but defender Aaron Ekblad lowered it to a goal deficit 1:56 later with Florida’s second power-play goal.
After Chicago started a late power game at. 13:11 with the game tied at 3, the Blackhawks fell victim to a star effort by Florida’s Aleksander Barkov, who led a strong short-handed rush that ended with his slam-dunk shorty at the threshold of a 4-3 lead.
Carter Verhaeghe and Alex Wennberg added blank net numbers – five unanswered for Florida – when Chicago tried to collect, but Blackhawks coach Jeremy Colliton said Barkov’s game winner was doomed.
“What happened at the end of the night on power play was unforgivable and difficult to explain how it happens,” Colliton said. “We are close, but in the end the difference was at an important moment in the game, we were not up to the task.”
Kevin Lankinen, 25, has claimed Blackhawks folds as their No. 1 net memory. Helsinki, Finland, native is 10-6-4 with 2.85 goals-against average and a 0.916 saving percentage of 20 starts.
– Field level media