Oilers vie for fourth straight win, visit Lightning
TAMPA, Fla. — The Edmonton Oilers and Tampa Bay Lightning meet up Tuesday night with both clubs on hot streaks, but in far different positions as the playoffs are concerned.
Edmonton (32-19-8) has won three straight, scoring a combined 14 goals along the way, and is poised to end the NHL’s longest playoff drought dating back to the 2005-06 season.
The Lightning (26-24-8) are trying to avoid starting a playoff drought of their own with 24 games remaining in the season.
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Tampa Bay has recorded points in a season-high six straight games with a 4-0-2 record after going 3-9-2 in the previous 14 contests. The latest victory saw the Lightning lose a two-goal lead in the final period, but salvage a win in overtime at Colorado thanks to a goal from Jonathan Drouin.
“We needed to win one of those,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the win Sunday night. “Regardless of who we were going to get to 3-2, we needed it. (Drouin) is a gifted, gifted player. you get him close to the net with the puck and a little bit of time and space, he can do some pretty magical things.”
The Lightning open a four-game homestand against three teams that would be in the current playoff field in Edmonton, Calgary and Ottawa. Tampa Bay has scored at least three goals in five of its last six games, making life easier for alternating goalies Ben Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Cam Talbot is at the other extreme having played 10 straight games for the Oilers, his last contest off coming exactly a month before Tuesday’s showdown. He’s 6-3-1 in those games, with Edmonton bouncing back nicely in its last three after earning just one win in the previous five.
The Oilers got a home win against the Lightning in a shootout in December. They’ll be carried again Tuesday by 20-year-old phenom Connor McDavid, who leads the NHL in points (67) and assists (40) in his second NHL season.
The Oilers are doing nearly everything well, with the exception of faceoffs, where they rank last in the league. The 48.6 win percentage is a continuing source of frustration for coach Todd McLellan.
“It’s an ongoing process for our group,” McLellan said Monday. “We’re at the bottom of the barrel when it comes to faceoffs. We climbed to the mid-20s, low 20s, and then fell back down again. Will we get to (being ranked No.) 1? No. We won’t get to 10, we likely won’t get to 15. If we can crawl up a few spots and gain some confidence, it’s something we’ll challenge our guys to do.”