Off to their best start in eight seasons, the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t showing any signs of letting up.
Their success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to the Winnipeg Jets.
Looking to match its longest winning streak from all of last season, Tampa Bay – unbeaten at home – tries to continue its recent domination of Winnipeg on Friday night.
After splitting their first two games, the Lightning (5-1-0) have outscored opponents 20-8 while winning their last four. Tampa Bay, averaging an NHL-best 4.8 goals per game, continued its offensive prowess Tuesday in a 5-2 win over Florida, improving to 4-0-0 on its own ice.
The Lightning, who opened a franchise-best 6-0-0 in 2003-04 on their way to the franchise’s only Stanley Cup title, last won their first five home games in 2007-08.
“There’s still a lot left in us,” rookie Cory Conacher, who is third on the team with nine points, told the team’s official website. “We can’t get too over our heads right now because it’s the first six games of the season and teams are still getting used to the speed of the game. … We gotta stay humble and take every contest like its a playoff game.
“As long as we come out Friday night with the same gas we had tonight, it’s hopefully gonna be the same story.”
While Steven Stamkos scored for the third time in as many games on Tuesday and captain Vincent Lecavalier added a goal and an assist, Tampa Bay also got plenty of production from its third line. Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell each tallied a goal and an assist while Benoit Pouliot set up two scores.
“We’ve created a third line that’s really, really looking good,” coach Guy Boucher said. “All three, I mean they’re jets, they fly – Pyatt, Tyrell and Pouliot – they’re clicking right now, so that’s good news for us.
“In the NHL, it’s your top four defenseman, your goaltender, but after that, the difference is usually your third line … and right now, we’re building a third line. I like it.”
Boucher has also surely been pleased with his team’s recent efforts against Winnipeg (3-3-1). The Lightning are 14-2-1 in this series dating to November 2009, when the Jets franchise was located in Atlanta. Tampa Bay is 8-0-1 at home over that stretch.
Winnipeg enters this game hoping to avoid a third consecutive loss after a 6-3 defeat at Florida on Thursday. Blake Wheeler continued his strong play with a pair of assists but the Jets allowed five goals in the third period, blowing two one-goal leads.
“We have another game in 24 hours against one of the top teams in the East and in our division right now, so if we can’t get up for (Friday’s game), we have bigger issues,” Wheeler, who has three goals and five assists during a five-game point streak, told the team’s official website.
Ondrej Pavelec, who stopped 28 of 33 shots Thursday, is 3-4-6 in his last 13 meetings against the Lightning. If in goal, Pavelec will need to be wary of Stamkos, who’s notched eight goals and six assists during a nine-game point streak in this series. His 35 points against the Jets are by far his most against any opponent.
Slowing down Stamkos could prove all the more difficult without defenseman Dustin Byfuglien, who’s uncertain to be available after sitting out Thursday due to an undisclosed injury.
After compiling a 3.67 goals-against average over his first three starts, Tampa Bay’s Anders Lindback has allowed a combined three goals over his last two games, improving to 4-1-0.