The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided its worst home losing streak in four years when they rolled over the Carolina Hurricanes 4-1 on Saturday night. The victory came thanks to secondary scoring from unexpected Tampa Bay skaters.
Pressure and expectations are always on Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis to provide offense, but other players off the top lines needed to step up for the Lightning to win according to Head Coach Guy Boucher.
"If you don't get it, you don't win," he said. "You can't win consistently in the NHL. All the good teams they have a top line, a great second line, a third line that can score and defend, and a fourth line that usually doesn't give much."
The need for secondary scoring has also increased with the absence of forwards Vincent Lecavalier and Benoit Pouliot.
"Obviously we have a lot of guys missing and with those guys missing it makes a huge difference," Boucher said. "We've said that our young guys are coming in not just because we want to bring in the young guys...but because they deserve it and we want to progress right now as a team."
Two of the Lightning's five rookies were contributing reason Tampa Bay was able to be victorious on Saturday night: Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat netted their first goals of their NHL careers. This was the first time in Lightning history that the team had two players score their first career goals during the same game.
According to Boucher, he purposefully played Palat and Johnson together against Carolina, crediting their chemistry in the AHL. Johnson and Palat have played together for almost two seasons on the Syracuse Crunch this year and for Tampa Bay's former minor league affiliate, the Norfolk Admirals.
According to Boucher, their line (which included Dana Tyrell who was recalled from Syracuse earlier in the day) came out flying from the very beginning of the night.
"I thought the Johnson, Palat and Tyrell line gave us momentum from their first shift in the first period," Boucher said.
Johnson scored the Lightning's first goal of game with a quick wrist shot that beat Carolina's Justin Peters at 10:54 of the first period. Johnson, playing in his second NHL game, created multiple scoring opportunities for the Bolts against the Hurricanes.
Johnson credited his scoring chances to a complete team effort, winning battles on the boards, and a better presence in front of the net.
"I thought the team was just playing a little bit grittier, you know we are getting into the danger zones and in front of the net and battling," Johnson said. "We were also better defensively."
Johnson added that prior to the game; the team discussed how they could generate more shots and improve their puck possession while eliminating turnovers. The Lightning certainly seemed to achieve what the set out to.
To Johnson, he and his line mates are (of course) excited to show up on the score sheet for the first time in their careers in the NHL, but, they just want to help the club in any way they can.
"It's awesome if we can contribute in some way whether it is winning a battle or showing up on the score sheet," Johnson added.
Palat's first career goal in his seventh game with the Lightning extended the lead to 2-0 by way of a screen in front of Peters. The puck went off his skate and in the net.
Forward Nate Thompson also contributed with an insurance goal that came on a breakaway at 12:55 of the second period, extending Tampa Bay's lead to 3-0. The goal was Thompson's sixth of the season.
"It is what the team needs," Palat said when asked about secondary scoring. "We are happy we get to help the first line score some goals. It helps them a lot because they don't think they always have to score goals. It helps the team a lot when other lines can score goals."