The surging Tampa Bay Lightning have found another go-to strength in their steady lineup: an effective, dangerous penalty-kill unit.
On Saturday, the Lightning and their penalty-kill crew -- led by Anthony Cirelli, Mathieu Joseph and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare -- will play host to Vegas in their first meeting this season with the Western Conference's Golden Knights.
Following Thursday's 3-2 rally to beat the New Jersey Devils, the Lightning were buzzing about the play of their penalty-kill squad that also features Alex Killorn, who scored his 14th goal to tie the game at 1-all early in the second period.
With Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta in the penalty box for a double-minor high-sticking infraction, the penalty-kill squad turned defense into offense in the second period.
Cirelli stole a puck and was fouled hard on a breakaway, forcing a penalty shot -- the first of his career. He was stuffed on a kick-save by New Jersey's Jon Gillies, but Joseph soon followed with some net-finding offense.
The forward stole a pass from Jesper Bratt and turned it around the other way with Bellemare beside him. Joseph's shot was stopped initially by Gillies, but he swiftly cleaned up the rebound for his team-leading second short-handed goal, a 2-1 lead and some momentum.
Those two plays in four minutes produced two fine scoring chances and the club's fourth short-handed score.
"Whenever you can kill off a four-minute power play and Jo gets one too for us, it's huge and gets momentum going the right way for the rest of that kill and the rest of the game," said Cirelli, who is paired on the unit with Killorn.
"He's just so quick out there and so fast," Cirelli said of Joseph. "He gets on pucks. He creates turnovers, and once he gets that turnover, he's gone."
Back after a five-game absence, Ondrej Palat dished out an assist and put three shots on goal in 16:19 of ice time as Tampa Bay won at home for the 11th time in the past 13 games (11-1-1).
Meanwhile, Vegas was in South Florida and was engaged in a tussle with the Florida Panthers. The Golden Knights fell 4-1 in a contest that actually had a one-goal margin with just over a minute remaining.
Zach Whitecloud scored his sixth goal, but Vegas allowed a pair of empty-net tallies for the final score -- its seventh defeat in the past 10 games (3-4-3) and second consecutive loss in the middle of a four-game road trip that ends Saturday.
In the physical, intense first meeting against Florida, Vegas won 29 of 46 face-offs (63 percent) and had two more power plays.
However, Florida outhit the visitors 37-31, and Aleksander Barkov scored a short-handed goal to tie it at 1-all with only 29 seconds left in the first period as momentum slid over to the group in home red.
"I saw a lot of effort and a little bit of a lack of execution at the end," Vegas coach Peter DeBoer said.
Max Pacioretty (wrist) played for the first time in 11 games, and Reilly Smith (COVID-19 protocol) returned after missing two games.
"We haven't been in this place all year," DeBoer said of playing with a nearly full roster and having to make lineup decisions. "I think we're going to get better as these guys get back in."
--Field Level Media