Senators-Lightning Preview

The Tampa Bay Lightning will almost certainly make the

postseason, but they haven’t looked much like a playoff team

lately.

The last-place Ottawa Senators have had something to do with

that.

With a chance to clinch a postseason spot, the Lighting look to

build on just their third victory in March and avoid losing to the

Senators for a third time in 2 1/2 weeks Tuesday night.

Tampa Bay (40-24-11) is in fifth place in the Eastern Conference

with 91 points, four more than sixth-place Montreal. The Lightning

are 11 points ahead of ninth-place Carolina, and can secure their

first playoff berth since 2007 if they win Tuesday and the

Hurricanes lose in regulation to Washington.

Winning, however, hasn’t come easy lately for the Lightning,

especially against Ottawa (29-37-10).

Tampa Bay, 3-6-4 this month, fell 2-1 at home to the Senators on

March 11 and 3-2 in overtime at Ottawa on March 19. Jason Spezza

scored the winner in the most recent meeting and also had a goal at

Tampa the week before.

The Lightning have had little success against Curtis McElhinney,

who stopped 69 of 72 shots in those two games. Making that all the

more difficult is the fact that McElhinney was claimed off waivers

from Tampa Bay on Feb. 28. He never played for the Lightning, who

obtained him four days earlier in a trade with Anaheim.

Although Tampa Bay has been scuffling, it defeated Carolina 4-2

on Saturday to avenge Friday’s home loss to the Hurricanes and snap

a four-game skid. Simon Gagne scored twice and Martin St. Louis and

Dominic Moore added goals, while Vincent Lecavalier had two

assists.

“This was good,” said Lecavalier, who has two goals and four

assists in his last four games. “We played 60 minutes, played hard,

played physical and did a lot of good things. Now we have to carry

it over to the next game.”

That could be tough, considering the Lighting haven’t won two in

a row since closing February with a three-game winning streak. They

opened March with a five-point lead over the Capitals atop the

Southeast Division, but have since fallen seven points behind

first-place Washington.

Tampa Bay needs goaltender Dwayne Roloson to break out of his

funk if it’s going to start stringing victories together again.

Roloson, given the night off Saturday, has allowed four goals in

each of his last two games – both losses – and has gone 0-2-2 in

his last four. He was in net for both matchups with the Senators

this month, and is 1-5-2 with a 3.10 GAA in his last eight starts

against them.

Ottawa, already eliminated from playoff contention, lost 5-4 in

a shootout to Atlanta on Sunday but has gone 4-1-1 in its last six.

Marek Svatos had two goals and rookie Erik Condra scored in his

second straight game for the Senators, who trailed 4-2 in the third

period.

“We never gave up and we’re not going to the rest of the year,”

Condra said.

Craig Anderson had a busy night, making 43 saves after stopping

60 of 61 shots in winning his previous two games. He has gone 8-4-1

with a 1.99 GAA since being acquired from Colorado last month.

“He’s been unbelievable for us,” Condra said.