The message after the morning skate from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman on how to get out of the current losing streak the team is in was a simple one.
“We have to get back to basics,” Hedman said. “We have to stay out of the box to start with. We cant take too many penalties. Five on five, last game we progressed a lot, so five on five is where we have to stay. Obviously our penalty kill has to be better when we take those penalties. We just have to be relentless as a team.”
Talk about looking into the future. That is almost exactly what happened for the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night when they faced the New York Islanders. The Lightning, desperate for a win, kept it simple. They won battles, played good defense, were relentless and looked more like the team that was a game away from the Stanley Cup finals last spring for maybe the first time this season in defeating the Islanders 4-1.
Mathieu Garon, getting his first start on home ice, was sharp in the little bit of action he faced, stopping 16 of the 17 shots the Islanders threw his way.
Part of the game plan for the Lightning going in, as Hedman stated, was to stay out of the penalty box. And they did it to near perfection, taking only two minor penalties that were killed off, and a third matching minor after the final horn sounded. On top of that, they added a power play goal of their own from Ryan Malone to get on the board.
The Lightning also got even strength goals from Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos, and Brett Clark. Marc-Andre Bergeron continued his hot start offensively with a first period assist, extending his point streak to five games.
Overall, it was how the Lightning got back to their system that was the most impressive about this game. The blueprint for success with this team is holding the opposition under twenty shots, and getting more than thirty shots on goal themselves.
In a week that saw so much get made of the goaltending, the Lightning may have proved tonight where the real issue was in previous defeats, the defensive coverage. Overall, the defensive coverage was much better tonight, and in turn, so was the goaltending.
“As a team, we played a system,” Lecavalier said. “We gave up 17 shots. That’s definitely the way we want to play. We were disciplined, and that’s the way we want to play.”
Overall, it was just a totally different Lightning team tonight, a team that was focused and determined for a full sixty minutes. Something they will have to continue moving forward to avoid future losing streaks.
Or, as Victor Hedman calls it, getting back to basics.