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Bolts bring points streak back to AMALIE Arena

Lightning take on Connor McDavid and the Oilers tonight at 7:30

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to extend their season-long point streak to seven games when they host the Edmonton Oilers at AMALIE Arena tonight.

The Oilers downed the Lightning 3-2 in a shootout back at Rogers Place earlier this season, but the Bolts are playing much better hockey since that mid-December defeat.

The Lightning have gotten six-consecutive outstanding performances from its goaltending, highlighted by Ben Bishop's current four-game win streak, his longest of the season and tied for the Bolts longest of the seasn as well.

Bishop will get the start in net versus the Oilers after making 27-of-29 stops two nights ago in a 3-2 overtime victory in Colorado.

Video: Cooper on triplets, Boyle, and McDavid"I would sit here and say just as a team we're defending better," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "So when you're defending better, you're not giving up the odd-man rushes, you're limiting teams' scoring chances. Right then, you're just helping your goaltender out. So I think it starts with that, and he's just in command of his game. He looks intimidating when he's in there. He's making saves with ease. He's not giving up rebounds. I think the two go hand in hand together. So when he's looking confident and we're defending, they kind of build off each other and I think that's what helped us."

Bishop ranks fourth in the NHL for goals-against average (1.21) and fifth for save percentage (.953) since February 1. Despite the scorching play, Cooper reiterated both Bishop and Andrei Vasilevskiy are playing well and deserving of starts when asked if he's ready to ride Bishop a little more over the final 24 games of the regular season.

"We've pointed in 6-straight games and both guys have played, so I don't know if we have to sit here and say we have to jump on somebody," Cooper said. "We're doing this as a team, and we've got two goaltenders that can play so there's no sense in sitting here and saying we're going to ride one. Is playing one guy two games in a row or three games in a row riding him? I'd say playing somebody 10 games in a row is riding them. I don't see that happening."

Vasilevskiy hasn't won since January 24 at Chicago but not for lack of trying. He's 0-1-3 over his last four and looked particularly sharp in a 37-save performance at Western Division leading Minnesota on February 10.

"They're playing outstanding," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said of the Bolts goaltending duo. Having good goaltending like that makes a lot of things easier. Regardless of what you do, if you mess up, you know you have someone back there that's really going to bail you out. It kind of allows you to take a little bit more risk or take a little bit more chance. When you can do that, you create a little more for yourself. It's been great having them play the way they have."

Video: Johnson on chemistry with TripletsTRIPLETS REUNITE: During the third period of the Lightning's 4-3 overtime loss in Dallas on Saturday, the Triplets line of Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov returned.

In Colorado, the Triplets continued to play together and were dangerous as a unit. Kucherov in particular saw a jump in his play, registering a season-high nine shots on goal after putting up just two in the previous three games combined.

The trio were together again during the Bolts' morning skate at AMALIE Arena on Tuesday, and it appears a more permanent return of the Triplets might be a reality.

"These guys have had like tons of success together, and they haven't played together all the time, just for a variety of different reasons," Cooper said. "But when they're together, they're a great fallback for a coach…To get those guys back together a little bit, especially when some of them weren't having individual success, putting them back together seemed to be the logical way to go about things and they had great success. It didn't show up on the point sheet (in Colorado), but they did a lot of really good things."

Johnson, who had a goal in Colorado reversed after a coach's challenge for goaltender interference, said the Triplets had an opportunity score on every shift against the Avalanche. After taking a couple shifts a night earlier in Dallas to get reacquainted, the chemistry they had two years ago when they were arguably the NHL's best line quickly returned.

"I think we all really enjoy playing together," Johnson said. "It's pretty nice when we see that our line's together. We really haven't had that opportunity this year, even last year with injuries and what not going on. So I think we're excited about it, and the fact we had a good game last game and had those chances and those opportunities, I think that's exciting moving forward."

Video: Hedman on importance of defensive structureICE CHIPS: Victor Hedman has six points over his last three games and ranks third in the NHL for scoring by a defenseman, trailing only San Jose's Brent Burns and Ottawa's Erik Karlsson…Edmonton has netted a combined 14 goals over its last three games. "We're playing a team that's been producing a lot offensively and got a lot of skill up front," Hedman said. "Our point of emphasis tonight is to play good defensively and that's going to be our M.O. going into the rest of the season. We've got to play good defensively to give ourselves an opportunity to make a late push."…Rookie defenseman Jake Dotchin is plus-three over his last two games and has two assists in his last three games. And his defensive play has been just as impressive as he made several key plays during the weekend road back-to-back set to thwart opponent scoring chances. "He's been playing great, and I think he's just going to get better with time," Hedman said. "Being a defenseman coming into this league is really tough, but he's been handling himself really well."…Anton Stralman is one point away from reaching the 200-point milestone, and Nikita Kucherov needs to more points to reach 200.

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