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Lightning seek better defensive effort vs. high-scoring Pens
(Sports Network) - Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher criticized his team's offensive-first style following a fourth straight loss over the weekend, a habit he would like his team to break.
But Monday night may not be the best time for the Lightning to go into a defensive shell as they'll need to keep pace with the high-scoring Pittsburgh Penguins, who are slated to have forward Evgeni Malkin back in the lineup.
Tampa Bay leads the NHL with 3.48 goals per game, but has gone just 3-10-1 since winning six of seven to begin the season. Part of the reason is the fact that the Lightning are giving up 3.14 goals per game.
Pittsburgh is second to only Tampa in goals per game at 3.46, but has been slightly better on the defensive side of things by yielding just under three goals per outing. That has helped the Pens grab first place in the Atlantic Division by three points over the New Jersey Devils.
Boucher was upset with his club following Saturday's 3-2 loss in Boston, where the Lightning scored a pair of first-period goals, but gave up the lead by the end of the second and then saw the Bruins score the go-ahead goal on the power play in the third period.
What had Boucher heated was that Boston scored the winner after Steven Stamkos missed the net on a short-handed try to set up the Bruins' rush.
"It's coming down to the same thing that has been going on here for years. What we're trying to break is that offense-first mentality of gamble that we have to get rid of," said Boucher. "It's the same story since the beginning of the year, it was there before and it's still there. We've got to break that."
Stamkos' confidence may have gotten the best of him after he scored his league-leading 15th goal of the season earlier in the game. He now has eight goals and 15 points over a nine-game point streak, the longest active run in the league.
Alexander Killorn also tallied and Teddy Purcell assisted on both goals, while Mathieu Garon posted 24 saves in Tampa's fourth straight loss. That includes defeats in the first two of a four-game swing and the Bolts sit at just 3-7-0 on the road this season.
The Bolts will certainly face a challenge in improving on that road mark with Malkin set to return for the Penguins following a four-game absence because of a concussion suffered versus the Florida Panthers on Feb. 22, when he crashed into the boards following a clean hit.
In 18 games this season entering Monday's play, last year's Hart Trophy winner as league MVP has four goals and 17 assists.
Malkin should provide a lift as the Pens return home after salvaging the finale of a three-game swing on Saturday. Following defeats in Florida and Carolina, Pittsburgh survived a high-scoring 7-6 test with the Montreal Canadiens that needed overtime.
Brandon Sutter's second goal of the game came 52 seconds into the extra frame and both Chris Kunitz and Matt Cooke scored twice. Sidney Crosby added a goal and two assists, Kris Letang assisted on four goals and Tomas Vokoun made 33 saves.
"The mistakes we made, we didn't let it pressure us. We just kept coming at them," Crosby said.
Crosby recorded his seventh three-point game of the season and has tallied nine points in his last four games. He is tops in the NHL with 24 assists and 34 points, two more points than Stamkos.
Kunitz, meanwhile, is riding a career high-tying five-game point streak, having totaled five goals and three assists during the run.
Pittsburgh played without defenseman Paul Martin on Saturday due to a lower body injury. He is day-to-day but is not expected to play tonight.
The Lightning are slated to get defenseman Sami Salo for the first time in three games because of a lower body injury and forward Ryan Malone is getting close to returning from a lower body issue of his own. However, Benoit Pouliot is out with a right shoulder injury and the club recalled winger Ondrej Palat from the AHL on Sunday.
The Penguins have won four straight over the Lightning and each of the past five meetings in Pittsburgh. They have outscored Tampa Bay 30-8 in those home outings, including a pair of 8-1 wins.
The Pens recorded a 5-3 home win over the Lightning on Feb. 24 as Crosby scored twice and added an assist.
Stamkos also scored and had two assists.
03/04 13:25:28 ET
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