The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to earn points, just not as many as they would like.
While the Lightning look to extend their point streak to 10 games, they’ll also try to avoid a third consecutive defeat Thursday night against the visiting New York Islanders.
Tampa Bay’s current 5-0-4 stretch is the club’s longest without a regulation loss since going 14-0-2 with two ties during its Stanley Cup-winning season of 2003-04.
However, after consecutive 4-3 losses at Pittsburgh in overtime on Saturday and versus Ottawa in a shootout at home Monday, the Lightning (39-24-9) must get back on track and start winning if they are to earn home-ice advantage in the first round of the Eastern Conference playoffs.
”We need to get every point that we can,” said defenseman Victor Hedman, who recorded his fourth point in three games with a goal against the Senators. ”We want to be as high up in the standings as we can.”
Third in the Atlantic Division, Tampa Bay is likely to face second-place Montreal in the first round of the postseason. The Lightning are currently two points behind the Canadiens, but have two games in hand.
Tampa Bay was fortunate to come away with one in each of its last two contests.
After Ondrej Palat scored late in the third period to force overtime at Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay overcame a 3-1 second-period deficit Monday. Steven Stamkos tied it early in the third with the team’s eighth power-play goal in five games, but the Lightning failed to score in the shootout against a Senators team that is set to miss the playoffs.
”We showed character, like always, coming back and getting the point, but we need to start the game way more intense, especially against desperate teams at home,” said Stamkos, who has seven goals and three assists in seven contests since failing to record a point in his first three back from missing 45 games with a broken leg.
After failing to prevail in the first of a three-game stretch against teams either eliminated from the postseason race or no longer a serious contender, the Lightning have no reason to take the Islanders (28-35-9) for granted.
New York has won two straight and four of six overall, and evened the season series with its second straight victory at Tampa Bay, 2-1 in a shootout Jan. 16.
Colin McDonald and Matt Martin each had two goals Tuesday as New York jumped out to a 4-0 first-period lead then hung on for a 5-4 win at Carolina.
”We’re not going to make the playoffs this year, but guys are fighting for jobs for next year,” said McDonald, who also added an assist.
New York’s Frans Nielsen scored the lone shootout goal at Tampa Bay in January, and has a regulation goal with two assists in his last three against the Lightning.
Facing the Islanders for the first time this season, Stamkos has five goals and four assists in the last seven meetings.