TAMPA — The Lightning had a lot of time to stew about their frustrating loss to the Bruins on Monday night, including two off days and the Thanksgiving holiday.
Regardless of the tryptophan ingested in their turkey meal, they didn’t rest easy. And when they returned to the ice Friday night at Amalie Arena against the Blues, they were looking forward to responding.
The first six minutes of the game were fitting for the Lightning’s national-television showcase, complete with dynamic scoring and dizzying physicality.
The Lightning ran out to a three-goal lead in the opening eight minutes, then settled in for a complete effort, winning 5-2 for their fifth win in their past six games.
“I think it’s great,” center Brayden Point said. “It’s obviously important. Our first period (against) Boston was really good, and then the game kind of got away from us. So to come up (Friday) and put together a good 60 minutes is important.”
Point scored two of those first three goals, and Nikita Kucherov had three assists. Linemate Brandon Hagel also scored, and Nick Paul added an empty-netter for insurance.
“It’s tough because we have a little bit of time to think about it,” coach Jon Cooper said. “But to come out the way they did was obviously big for us.”
At the beginning of November, the Lightning enjoyed their longest stretch of time at home this season, with nine of 11 games at Amalie Arena. They went 7-3-1.
The most memorable scene of the night Friday took place 5:30 into the game after the Lightning had gone up 2-0. After Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo ran out of runway on a partial breakaway and barreled into goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, all five Lightning skaters immediately chased Bortuzzo into the corner.
“You love to see it, though,” Cooper said. “You don’t want to be the guy laying in the corner, though.”
Another scrum had occurred four minutes earlier after Blues defenseman Niko Mikkola ran Lightning forward Rudolfs Balcers into the glass on the other end of the ice, knocking him out of the game and forcing the Lightning to play with 11 forwards for the remainder of the game.
“Usually when you’re playing a Western Conference team, there’s really not that kind of animosity,” Cooper said, “but I think we’ve grown together here this first quarter of the year.
“I’m not so sure that maybe we would have seen that 15 games ago. Balcers goes down, but when ‘Vasy’ got hit, the gloves are off. … I think that is some pretty big team building for us.”
The Lightning answered every challenge, whether it was standing up for teammates in the first period, ensuring another strong start wouldn’t go to waste as it did Monday when Boston scored five straight goals, or responding quickly when St. Louis cut Tampa Bay’s three-goal lead to 3-2 in the second period.
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“How do you keep responding? So how do you respond when somebody hits your goalie? How do you respond after a loss to Boston?” Cooper said. “How you respond when a 3-0 lead is 3-2, and they kept responding, and that’s why we won (Friday).”
After Blue forward Jordan Kyrou’s goal 6:24 into the second period cut the Lightning’s lead to 3-2, Hagel scored 18 seconds later. On that goal, Point shot wide on a breakaway and Kucherov kept the puck alive, taking it off the far boards and feeding Hagel above the right hash for an open look.
“I think anytime you’re scored against, you’ve got to try to tilt the ice again,” Hagel said. “I think you got to get pucks behind him, get on the forecheck, get pucks back and kind of try and work it down there and got to limit the turnovers … because they’ve got the momentum going their way already when they score.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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