With an explosive offense leading the way, the Tampa Bay Lightning are off to one of the NHL’s most impressive starts. Meanwhile, the New York Rangers are trying to breathe life into what looks like one of the league’s worst offenses.
The Lightning can notch a six-game winning streak for the first time in two seasons on Saturday night when they host the Rangers.
Tampa Bay (6-1-0) is averaging a league-best 5.3 goals per game, scoring four or more in five straight contests. The Lightning showed little sign of slowing down on Friday, beating Winnipeg 8-3 for their most goals since another 8-3 victory against Phoenix on Feb. 23, 2011.
Although Tampa Bay’s offense stars primarily the same players as last year’s club that tied for eighth with 2.83 goals per game, rookie Cory Conacher is a huge exception. Conacher continued his impressive start with two goals against Winnipeg, and is tied with Steven Stamkos for the team lead with five goals. Stamkos is among the league leaders with 14 points and has scored a goal in each of his last four games.
Vincent Lecavalier and Ryan Malone also have four goals each for the Lightning, who have a chance at the first 6-0 home start in franchise history.
“You just try to ride the wave,” said Stamkos, the runner-up in points with 97 last season. “You know it probably can’t last forever. But whether it’s an individual streak or team streak, you just try to ride the confidence that each individual brings game in and game out. It’s enjoyable, it’s fun to come to the rink when you’re winning and playing well.”
Overshadowed by all the offense has been goaltender Anders Lindback. After allowing seven goals in his first two games, Lindback has posted a 2.50 goals-against average in four straight wins.
The offense of the Rangers (3-4-0) enters Saturday on practically the opposite end of the spectrum. New York has been held to two goals or fewer in four games, but had won three of four before being shut out 3-0 by visiting Pittsburgh on Thursday.
The Rangers rank near the bottom of the league with 2.3 goals per game. Star forward Rick Nash no goals in his last five contests and one on the season.
Not helping their cause is the loss of captain Ryan Callahan, who is expected to be out 10-14 days with a shoulder injury suffered in a win against Philadelphia on Tuesday.
Discipline has also been a big issue for the Rangers, who are averaging 18:51 penalty minutes a game. They committed a too many men on the ice penalty Thursday for a third straight contest.
“We need to be stronger mentally,” coach John Tortorella said. “It’s a mindset, and things have been too up and down – it’s been a roller coaster. We are not at that level we need to be at consistently enough.”
An ineffective power play is also hurting the Rangers, who have scored three times on 28 chances (10.7).
Tampa Bay is 6-1-1 in the last eight meetings, but each matchup has been decided by two goals or fewer.
Henrik Lundqvist has one win in his last seven starts (1-2-4) against the Lightning despite a 2.79 GAA.