The Tampa Bay Lightning just completed a highly successful road trip. Now they must prove they can play quality hockey at home.
Tampa Bay looks for its third straight victory Saturday when it opens a three-game homestand against the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers.
The Lightning (8-7-1) earned at least one point in each contest of their four-game road trip, going 3-0-1 to bring their record away from home to 5-2-1 on the season. However, they are just 3-5-0 at St. Pete Times Forum, including their only shutout loss of the season, 1-0 to the Thrashers on Oct. 9.
Slava Kozlov scored the only goal of that contest, and goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped all 34 shots he faced to lead Atlanta.
Tampa Bay won the other meeting between the Southeast Division rivals this season, 3-2 in a shootout at Atlanta in the season opener on Oct. 5.
On Thursday at Pittsburgh, Vincent Lecavalier scored his ninth goal of the season 2:41 into overtime to lift the Lightning to a 4-3 victory over the Penguins. Tampa Bay outshot Pittsburgh 30-20 in regulation, but needed to rally from a 3-2 deficit after Penguins right wing Nils Ekman had a natural hat trick in the second period.
Eric Perrin scored the equalizer with his third goal of the season at 4:47 of the third.
"It was good to come back in the third period. We haven't done that often this year," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We collected ourselves. We've done that a couple times this year and those are some steps in the right direction."
Martin St. Louis has two assists - one of them on Lecavalier's game-winner - to extend his point streak to 10 games. He has 10 goals and seven assists during the run.
However, St. Louis did not register a point in either previous game against the Thrashers this season.
While Lecavalier and St. Louis give Tampa Bay a potent scoring combo, Atlanta (12-4-3) counters with another tandem of stars in Marian Hossa and Ilya Kovalchuk. Hossa leads the league with 28 points (13 goals, 15 assists), while Kovalchuk's 26 (14 goals, 12 assists) are tied with the New York Rangers' Jaromir Jagr for second.
Jagr and the Rangers got the better of the Thrashers on Friday night, though. Jagr had three assists and Michael Nylander scored twice - including a goal 15 seconds into the game - as New York defeated the Thrashers 5-2 at Philips Arena, snapping Atlanta's second four-game winning streak of the season.
"Right from the first shift, the Rangers were hungrier than us," said Thrashers coach Bob Hartley. "We're a better team than what we showed tonight."
Kovalchuk had a power-play goal and an assist in the defeat, giving him five goals and two assists in his last three games. He has failed to record a point in only four games this season, but two of those games were the meetings with the Lightning.
Hossa had a goal and an assist against Tampa Bay in the season opener. For his career, he has 16 goals and 21 assists in 34 games versus the Lightning.