Flyers, Lightning square off in second half of back-to-backs
TAMPA, Fla. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have relied on their prolific power play as a spark in amassing the best record in the NHL, but of late they've found a way to win without it.
Tampa Bay went 13 power plays without a goal before getting a five-on-three score in the third period of a 3-1 win over the Montreal Canadiens on Thursday night. That helped the Lightning continue a torrid 10-0-1 stretch as they play host to the Philadelphia Flyers on Friday night at Amalie Arena.
"Sometimes power plays, and you're doing really well and doing all the right things and they just don't go in," coach Jon Cooper said after salvaging a 1-of-6 night against the Canadiens. "That's how we feel our power play has been. We get some pretty darned good looks and they just weren't going in the net. Keep doing that, eventually the tide's going to turn."
On Friday night, both teams play the tail end of a back-to-back. The Flyers lost 3-2 at the Florida Panthers on Thursday.
Philadelphia has just one sweep in six previous back-to-backs this season, going a collective 4-5-3 in those 12 games. Tampa Bay also has just one sweep in five back-to-backs, with none in the past month.
The Flyers enter the game last in the Metropolitan standings, bouncing between good and bad streaks. They had a 10-game winless streak, going 0-5-5 in November, then won six straight games before their current 1-3-1 slump.
Philadelphia has struggled in the post-Christmas road trip, going 0-9-2 in the past three years before Thursday's setback.
"Doesn't have any bearing for me," coach Dave Hakstol told the Philadelphia Daily News. "We talked about the two games before Christmas and a little bit about the two after. But that has no connection or bearing whatsoever to past history. That's this team and where we're at and what we need to accomplish."
Tampa Bay took two of three games from Philadelphia last season, and the Flyers have struggled offensively, ranking 22nd in goals per game. They'll have the NHL's No. 29 penalty-kill unit going up against the league's No. 1 power play from the Lightning as well.
Jakub Voracek (36 assists, 44 points) and Claude Giroux (13 goals, 42 points) are Philadelphia's top scorers. The Lightning have the league's top overall scorer in Nikita Kucherov, who has 24 goals and 52 points.
After the back-to-back, Tampa Bay heads off on a five-game road trip, starting Sunday in Columbus.
The Lightning more often have back-to-backs on the road, but Cooper said the challenge of playing on consecutive days at home isn't quite as daunting as what the Flyers are facing, even with a short flight from Miami.
"You get to sleep in your own bed," Cooper said. "Honestly, it means something. The surroundings, and you don't have to jump on a plane. There's no bus to the airport, no plane ride, no whatever happens with delays or anything. You get to home and it's game day. If there's an advantage, that's about it."
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