NHL Preview from The Sports Network
Saturday, March 22nd (All times Eastern)
Tampa Bay Lightning (39-24-7) at Pittsburgh Penguins (45-19-5), 1 p.m.
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning have a chance to post their longest winning streak of the season on Saturday afternoon, but in order to do so they will need to snap a lengthy slide to the division-leading Pittsburgh Penguins.
The Lightning have won five in a row for the second time this season, giving them a two-point edge over the third-place Montreal Canadiens in the Atlantic Division with a game in hand. The Bolts are also five points ahead of the Toronto Maple Leafs, who host the Habs tonight, but a distant 16 points back of the first-place Boston Bruins.
Tampa will try to further secure that second spot, but will need to snap an eight-game series losing streak to Pittsburgh. That includes a pair of setbacks this season at home and the Bolts have lost six straight in Pittsburgh.
Of course, none of these streaks include the 2011 Eastern Conference quarterfinals, when the Lightning bested the Penguins in seven games.
Tampa Bay kept rolling with Thursday's 5-4 victory over the Ottawa Senators. Eric Brewer and Ryan Callahan both scored third-period goals, with Callahan giving his club a two-goal lead at the 11:58 mark.
However, the forward spent the final 56 seconds in the penalty box after getting called for slashing, a penalty that came not long after the Sens scored to make it a one-goal game.
Teddy Purcell snapped a 19-game goal drought by lighting the lamp just 23 seconds in and added a second tally later in the contest. Valtteri Filppula also scored to match a career high with his 23rd goal of the season, one that extended his point streak to seven games (3 goals, 8 assists).
Ben Bishop made 27 saves to win in his 100th NHL game.
"We keep getting goals from different players and we've buckled down on defense when we've needed to," said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.
The Lightning have not won six straight since a seven-game win streak from Jan. 17-Feb. 4, 2012 and Bishop is just 0-2-0 with a 4.43 goals against average in his career versus the Penguins.
Pittsburgh has lost three of its last four games, and though it has a comfortable edge for first place in the Metropolitan Division, the club sits six points behind the Bruins for the top seed in the East.
The Penguins did earn a point in Thursday's 5-4 overtime setback to the Detroit Red Wings, but felt disappointed to miss out on the second point. That is because Pittsburgh failed to score during a five-minute power play that bridged the end of the third period and overtime and then saw Detroit score the game-winner with just 0.4 seconds on the clock.
Detroit had spent the final 3:46 of regulation and first 1:14 of overtime a man down after David Legwand was given a major and game misconduct for jamming Evgeni Malkin with the butt end of his stick in front of the net.
Then, with time winding down, a turnover in the Detroit end saw the Red Wings go the other way on a 3-on-1. Skating down the right wing, Daniel Alfredsson let fly with a shot that Marc-Andre Fleury stopped, but the rebound came out front, went off Pittsburgh's Rob Scuderi and made it into the net just before the final buzzer.
"We got down again and answered with a big goal in the third," said Pittsburgh head coach Dan Bylsma. "We had that power play, the five-minute major from the butt end, and we should have been able to put it away but they killed it off."
Malkin scored twice with Lee Stempniak and Craig Adams also lighting the lamp for the Penguins. Fleury stopped 25 shots in the loss.
Pittsburgh will play four straight and six of its next seven at home, where it is 25-5-2 on the season.
Fleury is 15-10-3 with a 2.39 goals against average and two shutouts in his career versus the Lightning.
03/22 10:30:25 ET