The Tampa Bay Lightning have had little success since their team-record winning streak ended two weeks ago.
Things might not get any easier Saturday night considering how well the Arizona Coyotes have played of late.
The Lightning can salvage a split of their four-game trip by avoiding a third straight loss and preventing the Coyotes from matching a season high with their fourth consecutive win.
Tampa Bay (40-26-5) held a two-point lead in the Atlantic Division after winning its ninth in a row March 5, but have dropped to third by going 1-4-1 since. The Lightning are four points behind first-place Florida and four up on Detroit.
"We understand where we’re at and how things are going," goaltender Ben Bishop said. "It’s about manning up now."
Bishop made 37 saves as the Lightning opened the trip with a 4-0 win over Columbus on Sunday, but fell 4-1 to lowly Toronto two days later. They led three times Thursday against Dallas, but failed to hold a 3-2 advantage and were outshot 17-4 in the third of a 4-3 loss.
"The guys in the room, they’re going to hold themselves accountable," coach Jon Cooper told the NHL’s official website. "We were doing everything right for two periods and then to come out and completely change the way they played, we got to do better.
"We got to be better, it’s the bottom line."
Steven Stamkos, who recorded his second two-goal game of the trip, thinks the Lightning might be too eager for the postseason to begin.
"We played like a fragile team that was scared to lose and not hungry to close out a game," he said. "We can’t let that fear of losing creep in at this time of the year. There’s almost that feeling like we want the playoffs to get here, but there’s still a lot of hockey left.
"We’ll address that, nip that, and stay focused for these last 11 games of the season."
Stamkos opened the scoring as the Lightning won their third straight over Arizona, 2-1 on Feb. 23. Tampa Bay has won 13 of 17 in the series.
The Coyotes (31-32-7), though, have outscored opponents 11-2 during their three-game winning streak. Arizona won four in a row Jan. 4-12.
After missing 40 games with a lower body injury, Mike Smith delivered a stellar 44-save performance in last Saturday’s 4-0 victory at Edmonton, then stopped 27 shots in a 3-1 victory over San Jose on Thursday.
"I knew what to expect more going into (Thursday’s) game, but there were still some times where it was a little uncomfortable," the ex-Tampa Bay netminder said. "I definitely felt better than I did in Edmonton. It’s a good sign … It’s a process. I know what to expect now."
Smith is 2-3-0 with a 3.90 goals-against average against his former club.
Shane Doan has a goal and three assists in three games for the Coyotes, who have gone 4 for 9 on the power play in the last four. They’ve killed all 12 penalties over the same stretch.
Stamkos converted on Tampa Bay’s only power-play chance Thursday after it went 0 for 19 in the previous eight games.
It’s uncertain if Arizona points leader Oliver Ekman-Larsson (upper body) will miss a fifth straight game.