Having earned a point in five of their past six games, the Tampa
Bay Lightning are trying to close the gap in their pursuit of a
second straight playoff berth.
Their upcoming schedule could help them make up even more
The Lightning will open a season-high, seven-game homestand
Saturday night against the last-place Carolina Hurricanes, who are
in the middle of a road-heavy stretch.
Tampa Bay (31-29-7) is 11th in the Eastern Conference but very
much within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot
thanks to its 4-1-1 surge.
The Lightning, though, missed a chance to earn an extra point in
their chase of a postseason berth in a 3-2 overtime defeat at
Washington on Thursday night. Turnovers led to the tying goal with
3:58 remaining in regulation and Alex Ovechkin’s game-winner.
“If you come in here and you get a point, it’s not supposed to
be disappointing,” said coach Guy Boucher, who led his team within
one win of the Stanley Cup finals last season. “But it’s
disappointing because it was just a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb play,
that last play.”
Boucher’s team will try to bounce back during its two-week stay
at home, with five of the seven games coming against clubs not
currently in playoff position. Only four East teams have more home
wins than the Lightning, who are 20-10-2 in Tampa.
They had a five-game home winning streak snapped Tuesday with a
7-3 loss to Ottawa.
Dwayne Roloson gave up five goals after replacing an injured
Mathieu Garon (lower body). Minor league call-up Dustin Tokarski
made his first NHL start Thursday, stopping 29 shots despite
dealing with dehydration and cramps.
Before joining the Lightning, Tokarski had won eight straight
for the team’s AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va., while posting a 1.75
goals-against average. He received intravenous fluids following
Thursday’s game and could be back in net Saturday.
Tampa Bay is only four points ahead of Carolina for last place
in the Southeast Division, but the Hurricanes (25-27-15) have
earned at least one point in 19 of their last 23 games.
Eight of their next 10 come on the road. Carolina has a
league-low eight road wins but is 3-1-5 in its last nine away from
“We believe we can battle every night and keep picking up
points,” coach Kirk Muller said. “We’re scratching and clawing for
One of Carolina’s eight overtime or shootout defeats in the past
six weeks came at home against Tampa Bay last Saturday, losing 4-3
as Teddy Purcell fed Steven Stamkos for the game-winner at 2:41 of
the extra period. Stamkos and Purcell scored in regulation as the
Lightning overcame a two-goal deficit.
Purcell is riding a career-best, 11-game point streak in which
he’s totaled seven goals and 15 assists. Stamkos has at least one
point in six consecutive contests and has five of his
league-leading 48 goals over that stretch.
The All-Star center has eight points this season against
Carolina while helping Tampa Bay win three of five meetings.
Stamkos recorded a hat trick during a 5-2 home win over the
Hurricanes on Dec. 31, but the Lightning lost 5-2 in the last
meeting at Tampa as Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty each
recorded three points.
Staal had a 12-game point streak snapped during a 3-2 overtime
loss to Buffalo on Wednesday, the second of a season-high five
straight road games. Staal’s run was the longest by a Hurricanes
player since the team relocated to Carolina in 1997.