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TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning had two days off before Thursday’s game against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that will be traveling for the second half of a back-to-back, but Victor Hedman doesn’t want to think about potential advantages.
“We can’t fall into any false securities about them being tired. We need to bring our A game,” Hedman said Wednesday, two days after the Lightning rallied from two goals down for a 4-3 overtime win over the Washington Capitals.
Pittsburgh (2-1-1) has bounced back from a rough start, opening the year with a 5-4 overtime loss to the St. Louis Blues and a 10-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks.
On Wednesday night, the Penguins got three power-play goals in a 3-2 win over the same Capitals, including the first of the season for Patric Hornqvist.
Penguins coach Mike Sullivan was pleased with the results after mixing up his line combinations and finding a spark.
“There’s a fine line between letting them play through some of the struggles or just mixing it up to see if we can get a fresh look,” Sullivan told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “We stayed with it there for a fair amount of the game. The coaches thought that it was time to give them a fresh look. We stayed with a lot of the similar guys; we just moved people around a little bit. It ended up working for us.”
The Lightning (2-1-0) know all about the Penguins’ power play. Pittsburgh swept the season series 3-0 last year, outscoring Tampa Bay 15-7 and going 6 of 11 on the power play along the way.
Pittsburgh had been 2 of 12 in its first three games before converting three chances — for all its goals — to beat the Capitals.
The Lightning, after splitting two games with the Florida Panthers to open the season, cooled off the Capitals on Monday, tying the score in the third and winning on Brayden Point’s redirect of a Nikita Kucherov power-play shot in overtime.
“We’re very happy with the way we played Monday, the way we responded to our Saturday (loss) against Florida,” Hedman said. “We’re exciting about the upcoming games, but we have a real good Pittsburgh team coming in.”
Point has multiple points in all three games for the Lightning, with three goals and four assists to lead the team in scoring in just his second NHL season.
Steven Stamkos is still seeking his first goal of the season, though he has four assists in his return after missing much of last season because of injury.
How will Pittsburgh handle a back-to-back? They lost both in their season-opening back-to-back, and in 15 last season, they were swept six times, split six times and won both three times, though none in their first seven chances of the season.
Whether rest can help the Lightning pull off a home win against the defending Stanley Cup champions remains to be seen.