Lightning go hard at practice after getting rolled by Avalanche

Defenseman Ryan McDonagh says the team has failed to meet expectations in this early stage of the season
After Colorado's 6-2 whitewash on Saturday left goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning looking for answers, the Bolts had a spirited practice at Amalie Arena on Sunday. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
After Colorado's 6-2 whitewash on Saturday left goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning looking for answers, the Bolts had a spirited practice at Amalie Arena on Sunday. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Tampa Bay Times
Published October 20
Updated October 20

TAMPA — A hefty hour-long practice wasn’t enough to get Nikita Kucherov off the ice Sunday afternoon.

Instead, the Lightning forward opted to practice his one-timer from the right faceoff circle with defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

Sergachev shuffled pucks out to Kucherov from just below the blue line.

Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack.

Four straight shots found the back of the net before Kucherov sent one wide, the puck ricocheting off the crossbar and bouncing off the glass. Time to start over.

Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack. Whack.

Five more shots and five more goals, one more than the series before. That would be good enough for the day.

A 6-2 beatdown by the Avalanche at Amalie Arena was a rude awakening for the Lightning on Saturday night. The morning after felt like a bad hangover.

“We all watched our shifts and watched breakdowns of certain things as a team,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said, “and you look at the shots and you might think we did enough to win that game. But in the grand scheme of things, it was pretty sloppy.

“We’re not playing up to what’s expected from each individual of our team.”

A hard practice was expected. Sprints, puck battles along the boards and working the lines down the ice were on the agenda. But coach Jon Cooper didn’t think his team brought an added intensity to the practice.

“I’m not sure this practice is much different than the ones we’ve run in the last two weeks,” he said. “We’re working, and that’s what we have to do, and it’s not going to stop.”

Forward Mathieu Joseph said the Avalanche outworked the Lightning in some aspects of the game. The message during practice was clear: The work ethic needs to be better during games.

“The ice was getting bad at the end (of practice), and we still competed,” Joseph said. “I think it was a good practice for everyone.”

Respite welcomed

Joseph said he was definitely looking forward to getting a day off.

Today is the first day off the Lightning have had since their trip to Montreal early last week. They played six games on the road before facing the Avalanche at home, and after playing the Predators at Amalie Arena on Saturday, they head out for three games against the New York-area teams before going to Sweden for two games against the Sabres.

After that trip, lasting about two weeks, the schedule starts to regain a degree of normalcy.

Today is a body maintenance day for some players, a day to chill out for others.

“If you ask the players to rank the days during the season, I think all the days off would tie for first,” Cooper said, chuckling.

Boyle to join Panthers

One of Tampa Bay’s all-time favorite players is returning to the Sunshine State. Former Lightning forward Brian Boyle agreed to terms on a one-year deal with the Panthers. The two-way deal is for $940,000, the salary website CapFriendly reported.

Boyle, 34, had 24 points (18 goals) in 73 regular-season games with the Predators and Devils last season. He had two assists in three playoff games. He was an unrestricted free agent.

Boyle was with the Lightning from 2014 until his February 2017 trade to the Maple Leafs and became a fan favorite with his gritty style of play and gregarious nature.

Contact Mari Faiello at sports@tampabay.com.

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