ANAHEIM – Just two teams have beaten the scalding-hot Tampa Bay Lighting during regulation play this season. Just two have kept Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov from scoring a point.
Since his team became the one to do both, Ducks coach Randy Carlyle insists he’s not getting calls from colleagues to share his secret to stopping them. Or that he has a secret at all.
But when it came to how Stamkos and Kucherov were shut down in a 4-1 win two weeks ago in Tampa Bay, Carlyle was in full downplay mode as his team prepared to welcome the two to Honda Center for a return meeting tonight.
“That’s just one game,” Carlyle said following a practice at Anaheim Ice. “I don’t know if there’s a remedy. They’re very talented players. They have some tendencies in what they like to do. They’re as good a team at playing give-and-go and drop passes as we’re going to see.”
His explanation for the Ducks’ winning recipe that night was a power play that scored twice and a penalty kill that kept the explosive Lightning – particularly Stamkos and Kucherov – from doing any damage.
Beyond that, the Ducks were willing to play a tenacious game over every part of the Amalie Arena ice surface. And there was another factor at play.
“I think a lot of it was motivation off our previous performance in Florida,” Carlyle said, recalling an 8-3 drubbing by the Panthers. “We weren’t really happy. We had a lot of areas that we needed to shore up or we really would have gotten embarrassed.”
Kucherov and Stamkos haven’t exactly cooled off ever since. Neither have the Lightning, who are 13-2-2.
The two are at the top of the early-season NHL scoring race, with Stamkos (8 goals and a league-high 22 assists) holding a one-point edge over Kucherov (13 assists and an NHL-leading 16 goals). The prolific linemates have already helped each other rack up 21 multi-point contests.
Tampa Bay will be coming off a 5-2 win over the Kings, where it scored four first-period goals in a two-minute span at Staples Center.
“You’re not going to be able to hold those types of players off the scoresheet on a regular basis,” Carlyle said. “They’ve got a lot of confidence. And, as I said, they’re as good as anybody with the give-and-go and the drop pass and involving their five guys up the ice. They share the puck as good as anybody.
“Their special teams are strong. Their goaltending has been. They’re one of the top teams in the league, if not the top…