Wednesday, 4 a.m.
When things are going badly, do you trust success to last?
Are you sure the bad times have disappeared? Do you think the nightmare is over? Are you convinced that the misery is over?
If you are a fan of the Tampa Bay Lightning, these are the thoughts that consume you today.
After all, you saw this team as it lost five of its previous six, and 10 of its previous 12, in the worst slump of the Jon Cooper era. So when the team scores four goals (only twice in the previous 12 games). If you saw the goaltending
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standing up (40 goals in the previous 12), if you saw the penalty kill (the Bolts were 25th in the NHL).
Given that, did Andrei Vasilevskiy look as if he had staying power in stopping 22 of 23 shots. Did it look like something that will last as the Bolts scored on two power plays? Did it look like a team ending a bad streak? A team starting a good one?
Or can you tell? Remember, after a four-game losing streak, the Bolts beat Washington 2-1. After three more losses, the Lightning beat Calgary 6-3. And went back to losing.
So what will determine is this is the start of something big or simply a brief respite from the agony?
“It’s just one game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “So, we needed to start off this little rut of home games, and we had to play with desperation. I thought we did that. There’s a lot we can build off this, no question. Really proud of the effort the guys gave tonight. Our game, it started out west, and our game’s getting better. I know it didn’t pay off with two points against Edmonton , but as that game went on, we just kept going tonight and it was really good to see. But, ultimately, bank those points. Good job fellas. We got two more before the break and we got a St. Louis team that gave us a tough time up there, but we felt good about our game when we played them and (we’re) looking forward to another crack.”
That's the thing about the Lightning. When they are on their game, it looks as if it can last forever. But the Lightning hasn't won two games in a row since a four-game streak that ended on Nov. 19. There has been too much lethargy. Too little danger. Not enough defense. Too many injuries.
“Hopefully this is a short-term thing (to Bishop), but Vasy comes in (and) it’s a tight game still at that point."
Cooper said. “Actually, I thought right before we scored that fourth goal, he makes a couple big time saves. So now you’re sitting here is it 3-1 or 4-0? He makes those saves, we go down and score on the 2-on-1 and that was it. You need your goalie to make that timely save. You’ve got to come up with that big save, and they’ve been doing that and hence we’re getting points out of games, so it’s big.”
For the Bolts to get a streak started, their goaltending has to be good. The defense has to be better. The special teams have to be good.
“The power play’s been pretty consistent all year. It’s been doing well, but it’s the penalty kill,” Cooper said. “That’s what wins you hockey games, and if our power play had gone 0-for-6, we still would’ve won this game 2-0 because penalty kill goes five-for-five and you need to be able to keep the puck out of the net. A little bit of bend don’t break in us, but I thought they did a heck of a job and probably the difference in the game.”
Tampa Bay is home against St. Louis on Thursday night.