Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to get hot with the playoffs creeping up.
The Ottawa Senators’ postseason hopes, however, are quickly fading.
The surging Lightning look to pick up a rare road victory over the Senators, who try to bounce back from an especially embarrassing showing Thursday night.
Tampa Bay (38-24-7) has scored 17 goals during a four-game run after winning 5-3 at Toronto on Wednesday. Stamkos recorded a natural hat trick while Valtteri Filppula and Ryan Malone each notched a pair of assists.
”There are some special players out there that just find a way. They have that innate ability to rise to the occasion,” coach Jon Cooper said of Stamkos. ”He basically put the team on his shoulders.”
Stamkos has seven points during the winning streak after failing to score a point in the first three games following his return from a broken leg. Tampa Bay’s run is its longest since recording a season-high five straight victories Dec. 15-23.
The Lightning, who have points in six straight games (4-0-2) climbed into a second-place tie with Montreal in the Atlantic Division, moving three points ahead of the Maple Leafs.
”Every win is huge now, but when you’re in a situation like we are with how tight it is, especially with Montreal and Toronto … we have to take advantage of the games in hand that we have, especially when you’re playing head-to-head,” Stamkos told the NHL’s official website. ”Those are four-point games, so we’ll gladly take it.”
The Lightning could have a hard time furthering their momentum in Ottawa, where they are 4-21-4 dating to January 1998. Tampa Bay has dropped its last five visits by a combined 21-11 score.
The Lightning earned consecutive home wins over the Senators before falling 5-3 on the road Jan. 30. Stamkos missed all three matchups due to his injury.
Stamkos has nine goals and 10 assists during a 15-game stretch versus Ottawa, and Tampa Bay is 14-2-0 this season when he records at least one point.
The Senators (28-27-13) have been outscored 20-12 during an 0-2-2 skid after falling 8-4 to the Rangers on Tuesday, surrendering their most goals at home since Dec. 29, 2007.
”We’re embarrassed,” captain Jason Spezza said. ”It was a must-win game for us and to give up eight is nothing but unacceptable. They get the lead and we just unravel. It’s kind of been the same thing all year for us. We haven’t been consistent enough and able to play with leads enough and it seems like tonight was a microcosm of a lot of things.”
Ottawa has gone 2-6-2 over its last 10 to fall seven points behind Columbus for the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot.
”If I had an answer to where the switch went, obviously we would have corrected it many games ago,” forward Bobby Ryan told the team’s official website.
Robin Lehner allowed five goals on 28 shots before getting pulled Tuesday, dropping to 0-3-2 with a 5.67 goals-against average in his last five games. With Craig Anderson still out due to injury, Lehner — 1-1-0 with a 3.03 GAA against Tampa Bay — likely will start again.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop is fourth in the NHL with 33 wins – already a single-season team record — after racking up four in a row. Bishop, acquired from Ottawa last April, is 3-0-0 with a 2.25 GAA against his former team.
He will need to be wary of Spezza, who has 21 goals and 35 assists in 39 career meetings against the Lightning, including playoffs. Spezza has 17 points in his last 12 games overall.