The Tampa Bay Lightning opened their three-game California road trip the way they have been playing for much of the new season: inconsistently.
After a 4-2 setback against the Los Angeles Kings on Tuesday night, the Eastern Conference champions will make the short trip to Anaheim to complete a back-to-back set, facing the Ducks on Wednesday night.
The trip’s start was a bad one from a results standpoint; but, according to Lightning coach Jon Cooper, his club played a good first half and a losing second one.
Through a half-hour of play, the visitors trailed just 2-1, but the contest got away from the Lightning over the final 30 minutes.
They fell behind 4-1 on Adrian Kempe’s blast before Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov recorded his first goal of the season for the final margin.
“I thought halfway through the game, we probably carried the play,” said Cooper, whose group has four regulation losses in its seven games. “Unfortunately, we got behind and we didn’t push. That’s the disappointing part of this. Once (the Kings) got the lead, they structured down.
“The first 30 minutes of the game, I liked what was going on. When you go off script and start doing things on your own, usually it’s a recipe for disaster. That’s how it was tonight in that second half of the game.”
In falling to 2-1-0 in the first game of a back-to-back pair, Tampa Bay also had its 10-game winning streak against the Kings broken. That mark was the league’s second-longest active run, trailing the Boston Bruins’ 19-game string of triumphs over the Arizona Coyotes.
In the first of two meetings between the teams, the Ducks will be looking to change the direction of their season and improve on a history against Tampa Bay that isn’t good over the last decade.
Anaheim and coach Dallas Eakins are off to a slow start in their fourth season together: The Ducks have one win and three points after six games. They also own the NHL’s worst goal-differential mark at minus-14, a pace that comes out to minus-191 over the 82-game season.
Since beating the Seattle Kraken on home ice to open the new campaign, the Ducks are 0-4-1 and have lost the scoring battle 23-9.
After Anaheim fell 5-1 against the Detroit Red Wings to close out a five-game road trip on Sunday, first-year Ducks center Ryan Strome said he recognizes the problem but added it’s up to him and his new teammates to fix it.
“The last two or three games, if we’re a little better on special teams, we’re right in the game,” said Strome, who signed a five-year, $25 million free agent contract in July. “That’s how you win games in the NHL, and we’re not doing it on either side of the puck.”
Eakins felt the difficulties run deeper, questioning the effort of the majority of the squad.
“You can’t win in this game with just your goalie and three players playing well,” the coach said. “You’ve got to have all 18 skaters and your (goalie) going every night if you are consistently going to be on the right side of the score.”
In the past 10 seasons against the Lightning, Anaheim holds a 5-9-3 record, with just one victory in the past five matchups.
–Field Level Media