Lightning-Maple Leafs Preview
The Tampa Bay Lightning are on the verge of their longest winning streak since December after earning another two points on home ice.
Keeping things going could prove difficult in Toronto, where they haven’t won in more than three years.
The surging Lightning try to pick up a rare win against the Maple Leafs when they open a crucial three-game road trip Wednesday night.
Tampa Bay (37-24-7) closed a 3-1-2 homestand with Monday’s 4-3 victory over Vancouver, its third win in a row. Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat each had a goal and an assist.
The Lightning, who suffered back-to-back shootout losses before the winning streak, haven’t won four straight since a season-best five-game run Dec. 15-23.
"Great homestand, especially after you drop the first one," coach Jon Cooper said. "It’s not how you get there, you just need the points."
The Lightning led 3-0 after 40 minutes and held a 4-1 advantage midway through the third period before allowing the Canucks to climb within one with 4:44 left.
"We’ve still got to fix some things," Stamkos said. "You take a lead into the third we know, especially teams that are fighting for their playoff lives, they’re going to throw everything at us. We have to be a little smarter."
The Lightning will try to do a better job against the Maple Leafs, who have 35 goals during a 7-2-0 stretch in the series. Tampa Bay has been outscored 17-9 during an 0-3-1 skid in Toronto since winning 6-2 on March 14, 2011.
The Lightning are 0-2-0 against the Leafs in 2013-14, though Stamkos missed both games. Tampa Bay is 13-2-0 this season when Stamkos records at least one point.
Stamkos, who has four points during the winning streak, has 10 goals and 12 assists in 19 games against Toronto (36-26-8).
The Leafs dropped three of four to conclude a 2-3-0 road trip, falling 3-2 to Detroit on Tuesday. They are hoping to avoid losing three straight in regulation for the first time since an 0-4-0 skid Jan. 4-10.
"We’re going to flush this and get ready for (Wednesday)," coach Randy Carlyle said. "Just get ready for the next one, that’s all you can do."
The Leafs are one point behind Tampa Bay for third place in the Atlantic Division and are first in the Eastern Conference wild-card standings.
Phil Kessel leads Toronto with 73 points, but he’s gone without one over the last four games to match his longest drought of the season. He has two goals and eight assists during a nine-game point streak against the Lightning.
James Reimer stopped 28 shots against the Red Wings, dropping to 0-4-0 with a 4.09 goals-against average in his last five starts. He’s 2-3-0 with a 2.93 GAA against Tampa Bay, while teammate Jonathan Bernier is 2-0-0 with a 1.50 GAA.
Bernier’s status, though, remains unclear due to a strained groin.
Ben Bishop, who has started Tampa Bay’s last five games, is 1-4-0 with a 2.85 GAA in his last five on the road. He is 2-4-0 with a 3.04 GAA versus Toronto.
Palat has four goals and five assists during a five-game point streak. He’s notched three points against the Leafs this season.