When Lightning coach Guy Boucher looks at game video, he wants to see what he calls a “five-man picture.”
That is, he wants five players in such a tight, structured defensive posture, they all fit onto the screen.
“It’s a pack mentality,” Boucher said. “It’s all about support everywhere” and “suffocating the opponent.”
Assume, then, Boucher will be pleased when he screens Thursday night’s 4-1 victory over the Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Tampa Bay (2-3-2) stifled New York with defensemen who narrowed the gaps on the opponent, slowing them through the neutral zone and allowing backchecking forwards to harass and disrupt.
The result: the end of a five-game losing streak and a season-low 17 shots allowed, 21 fewer than Tampa Bay’s average in its previous six games.
At one point, New York went 15 minutes, 16 seconds without a shot, making it a relatively easy game for Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon, who stood in for struggling Dwayne Roloson.
Ryan Malone, Vinny Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Brett Clark scored. Teddy Purcell had two assists, and defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron’s assist extended his points streak to five games with two goals and eight points.
“This was kind of a statement game for ourselves, not for anyone else,” Stamkos said. “Just to prove that when we stick together and stay disciplined and stay to the structure, we give ourselves a chance to win against the best teams in the league.”
It helped that Tampa Bay, which entered with a league-worst 36 times shorthanded, gave the Islanders only two power plays. That allowed it to build rhythm five-on-five. That led to better control of the offensive zone and 30 shots on goal.
Getting the game’s first goal — Malone’s power-play tally with 3:28 left in the first period — was a luxury enjoyed in only one previous game. And until Thursday, Tampa Bay had not led heading into the second period.
But the key was defense, and defenseman Eric Brewer led with four blocked shots and four hits. The line of center Nate Thompson, Adam Hall and Tom Pyatt stood out as well.
“We felt we had been creating opportunities for the other teams,” Brewer said of Tampa Bay’s skid. “We played teams that played very well. At the same token, we fed some of their plays. We left a lot for them, and they took it. We reined a lot of that in. That makes a big difference.”
“And out of that comes offense,” Boucher said.
And a much better viewing experience.
St. Petersburg Times