NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Monday, March 24th (All times Eastern)
Ottawa Senators (28-29-13) at Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-8), 7:30 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning picked up a well-earned point in a recent loss, but the Bolts hope to record their sixth win in seven games when they welcome the sliding Ottawa Senators for Monday's game in Central Florida.
Tampa Bay is trying to return to the playoffs for the first time since 2011, and although picking up wins down the stretch is the best way to ensure a return to the postseason, losses that come after regulation can sometimes help as well.
After having a five-game winning streak halted with Saturday's overtime loss in Pittsburgh, the Lightning enter Sunday with 86 points. That gives them a one-point edge over Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division with the top three clubs from each division earning an automatic bid to the postseason. Tampa also is six points clear of Detroit and Toronto in the Atlantic standings.
Tampa Bay's Ondrej Palat scored with 1:22 left in regulation to force overtime on Saturday, but James Neal delivered the 4-3 win for the Penguins, scoring the game-winning goal 1:27 into OT.
Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin scored twice in the final 8:53 of regulation and added two assists, including one on the deciding goal. With the Penguins on a 4-on-3 advantage in the extra frame thanks to a too many men on the ice penalty, Malkin sent a pass down to Neal in the right circle, and Neal beat Anders Lindback with a one-timer to the far side.
"It's extremely frustrating with how it ended up," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said, referencing the bad break his team caught with the penalty. "If that puck bounces one way, it doesn't happen."
Lindback gave up four goals on 29 shots as the Lightning were unable to win six in a row for the first time since a seven-game winning streak from Jan. 17-Feb. 4, 2012.
Steven Stamkos had a goal and also assisted on Valtteri Filppula's second- period tally.
Beginning with Monday's test at Tampa Bay Times Forum, the Bolts are playing two straight and eight of their next 10 games at home. The Lightning have won three in a row in Tampa and are 20-8-5 as the host this season.
While the Lightning are aiming to halt a two-season playoff drought, the sliding Senators are headed for their first year out of the postseason since 2011. Ottawa is 11 points out of a playoff spot in the East with only 12 games left on its schedule and is in the midst of a season-worst six-game losing streak.
The Senators lost for the fourth straight time in regulation on Saturday, dropping a 3-1 road decision against Dallas. It was the fourth loss in the last five away games for Ottawa, which fell to 15-14-7 as the guest after losing the opener of a three-game swing.
Ottawa was tied 1-1 with the Stars at the end of 40 minutes, but Trevor Daley and Jamie Benn found the net in the third period to spur Dallas to victory. Daley's go-ahead goal came 4:52 into the period and Benn scored just over two minutes later.
Erik Karlsson scored the lone goal for Ottawa, while Robin Lehner absorbed the loss despite making 41 saves.
"We started pretty well," said Karlsson. "We got the lead but couldn't really follow through until the end there and they had a couple of nice goals to finish it off. I think we battled hard and our competing level was there, but unfortunately we just couldn't put the puck in the net."
Lehner has lost all six games during the Sens' current slide, and with No. 1 netminder Craig Anderson battling a left shoulder injury, he could get another start on Monday.
Ottawa's Bobby Ryan, who leads the club with 23 goals this season, left Saturday's loss with a lower-body injury. The winger is questionable for tonight's game.
The Senators, who are on their first six-game slide since going 0-6-1 from Jan. 21-Feb. 7, are 4-9-3 over their last 16 games.
Tampa Bay has won four of the last five meetings with Ottawa and has claimed three of four encounters in 2013-14. Ottawa has lost four straight and seven of its last 10 road games against the Bolts.
03/24 10:52:52 ET