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How Lightning recaptured playoff-winning form in New York/New Jersey

Eduardo A. Encina, Tampa Bay Times on

Published in Hockey

NEWARK, N.J. — Inside the Lightning locker room, the postseason already has begun.

Though 22 games remain on their regular-season schedule, they have to outlast several teams chasing them to make the playoffs. This Lightning team is a different group from the one that won consecutive Stanley Cups in 2020 and ‘21, but the core remembers what it takes to win in the postseason.

If the Lightning do make the postseason and have another deep run, back-to-back road wins over the Islanders and Devils this weekend, capped by Sunday’s 4-1 victory over New Jersey at Prudential Center, might be what they look back on as when their season became playoff-ready.

“It was huge,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who had a goal and an assist against the Devils and was one of three Lightning players who were plus-4. “We really played desperate, and we played to our structure. We didn’t cheat the game, and we played to our strengths.”

Things can change quickly at this time of the season, and the Lightning (32-23-5, 69 points) are now trending in the right direction.

After dropping three straight at home, Tampa Bay allowed three total goals in the two road wins. It took early leads and held them, earning four huge points against teams that are chasing them in the Eastern Conference standings and have games in hand.

 

“A lot of things have worked,” coach Jon Cooper said. “I think first and foremost, it’s our mindset and what it takes to win in the league and what it takes to win down the stretch. When you give up two goals a game or one goal a game, good things are going to happen.

“We’re just playing the right way. We’re not cheating for offense, we’re not beating ourselves, and that’s something we’ve done, especially on that homestand. Guys have made a conscious effort to make sure that’s not happening, and you can see the results.”

Here’s how the Lightning recaptured playoff-winning hockey Sunday in New Jersey.

The stars led the way

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