After a lackluster performance in 2011-12, the Tampa Bay Lightning are seeking to get this season off to a better start.
The Lightning will try to keep their early momentum going Monday by avoiding another road loss to the New York Islanders, who are hoping to have coach Jack Capuano back on the bench.
Tampa Bay finished with 103 points in 2010-11, the second-most in franchise history, and was one win shy of a second trip to the Stanley Cup finals. The Lightning, though, couldn’t carry that success into last season, when they started 1-3-2, finished with 84 points and missed the playoffs.
They began their drive to return to the postseason in strong fashion Saturday with a 6-3 win over Washington. Veteran forward Martin St. Louis and defenseman Eric Brewer each had two goals, and Cory Conacher had a goal and an assist in his NHL debut.
“We emphasized that we wanted to start the year quick in a shortened season, and we were able to do that,” said Steven Stamkos, who assisted on two third-period goals on the power play.
The Lightning are seeking to open with back-to-back wins while handing the Islanders a second straight loss. New York fell 2-1 to visiting New Jersey on Saturday.
The Islanders gave up the go-ahead goal only 1:05 after Travis Hamonic scored in the third period.
“We got better as the game went on but they took it to us in the first period,” forward Matt Martin said. “We expect more from ourselves. … Life goes on, and we look forward to Monday.
“Monday is a big one for us and one that we need to win.”
They’ll try for a better performance with Capuano possibly leading the way. The New York coach had to miss Saturday’s game because he needed surgery for kidney stones.
It’s unclear if Capuano will return Monday, but he expressed confidence in his assistants should he have to sit out again. Assistant coach Doug Weight led the team in the season opener.
“We’re very familiar with Tampa Bay from the last couple years and what their tendencies are,” Capuano told his team’s official website. “(Lightning coach) Guy Boucher does a great job. They’re very structured in their system and we have a plan for how to defuse some of their strengths.
“We’ll go over those things as a staff. I feel very confident in all our coaching staff that if we need a game plan in place, that they can handle it.”
The Islanders could have some extra confidence after winning three straight home meetings with the Lightning and eight of the last 10. New York won 5-1 in each of the two games at Nassau Coliseum in last season’s series.
John Tavares totaled three goals and three assists in those two home victories, while Matt Moulson had six points in four overall meetings with Tampa Bay in 2011-12.
Stamkos scored four of his 60 goals last season against the Islanders, with the Lightning beating New York twice in Tampa.
Teammate Vincent Lecavalier is set to become the first player to appear in 1,000 games with the Lightning on Monday.