Tampa Bay Lightning at Toronto Maple Leafs game preview
The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to halt their recent rough stretch despite losing two key contributors for a good portion of their latest contest.
It’s uncertain if co-point leader Nikita Kucherov and fellow forward Valtteri Filppula will be available Tuesday night when the visiting Lightning try to improve to 4-0 against the Toronto Maple Leafs this season.
Steven Stamkos snapped a four-game point drought with two goals and an assist, Ben Bishop made 37 saves and Tampa Bay ended an 0-2-1 slide with Sunday’s 4-0 victory at Columbus.
"You go down to nine forwards in a game that was physical," said Stamkos, who reached 30 goals for the fifth time in his eight seasons. "It was hard-nosed. We showed a lot of character."
In a tight race with Florida and Boston for the top spot in the Atlantic Division, the Lightning (40-24-5) regained some confidence after totaling three goals during the three-game skid that followed a franchise-record nine consecutive victories. However, Tampa Bay moves forward while the status of Kucherov and Filppula remain unknown for the moment.
Tied with Stamkos for the team lead with 55 points, Kucherov was hurt after taking a sucker punch to the head from Columbus’ Dalton Prout. Kucherov recorded his 30th assist before leaving the game.
Filppula, who has just one point in his last 15 games but provides some valuable veteran leadership, suffered an upper body injury.
Coach Jon Cooper did not give an update on either player following the game, but the team felt both injuries did not appear to be long term.
Kucherov had a goal with two assists in the first three meetings with Toronto (23-34-11).
Stamkos, the suburban Toronto native who could be courted by the Maple Leafs over the summer, has one goal and no assists against them this season.
Bishop has watched backup Andrei Vasilevskiy start all three games against Toronto while posting a 1.65 goals-against average with a shutout. Vasilevskiy, who could get the call again, made 31 saves in a 2-1 victory at Toronto on Feb. 29 and had 36 in a 4-2 loss at Philadelphia on March 7 in his two most recent starts.
That is Tampa Bay’s lone defeat over the last eight games on the road. Bishop has surrendered six goals in his last six road starts.
The Lightning have gone seven straight games without a power-play goal and are 4 for 55 in the last 18. However, they’ve killed 30 of 31 penalties in the last nine road contests.
The only goal Toronto has managed in its last two games was the difference in Sunday’s 1-0 victory at Detroit. Michael Grabner snapped a 30-game goal drought, and Jonathan Bernier made 38 saves for his third shutout of the season.
Toronto last won back-to-back games Feb. 2 and 4, and hasn’t done it at home since Nov. 30 and Dec. 8.
"It’s more fun when you win," Grabner said. "(We got) some energy. … We can keep it going now."
Bernier, who gave up 10 goals in his previous three starts, made 28 saves in a 1-0 loss at Tampa Bay on Jan. 27 after being roughed up in a 5-4 overtime home defeat to the Lightning on Dec. 15.
Tyler Johnson’s two goals at Toronto last month began his stretch of eight points in seven games.