The last time the Tampa Bay Lightning faced the Edmonton Oilers, the Bolts trailed 2-0 going into the final period and were just three points out of seventh place in the Atlantic Division.
What a difference 11 days can make.
Currently, the Lightning sit in third place in the Atlantic, just two points back of second-place Detroit. The Bolts, in fact, trail first-place Florida by only five, the Panthers stumbling a bit having lost three straight after winning 12 in a row.
That rally in Edmonton when the Lightning scored three goals -- all coming from deflections off Edmonton skaters -- has ignited the Bolts’ current five-game win streak and climb in the standings.
With a victory tonight, the Lightning can pull into a tie for second with Detroit, which is idle.
“I think that game was the turning point,” Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov said. “We were down 2-0, but we got the bounces that we needed and got the win. From there, we just stuck to the system and worked our way up a little bit.”
Namestnikov said the Lightning were “too cute” in the first two periods in Edmonton and talked during the second intermission about playing more aggressively.
“I remember in the locker room guys were saying, ‘We have to have more of a shot mentality,’” Namestnikov said. “We started doing that, and the bounces went in.”
Since that game, the Lightning have trailed just once on their current five-game win streak when they allowed Pittsburgh to take a 4-3 lead in the third period after the Bolts had built a 3-1 advantage.
Anton Stralman scored the game-tying goal to send the game against the Penguins to overtime, where Namestnikov provided the game-winner, netting his first career hat trick in the process.
But it all started that night in Edmonton.
“Contrary to what other people may think, I actually thought we didn’t play too bad in the first two periods (in Edmonton),” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “I think that was the game (Nikita) Nesterov had it three feet away with no goalie in the net and still passed. You’re not going to score that way. We attacked the net a little bit. Sure, we get fortuitous bounces there’s no question, but it takes something like that sometimes just to kick start what has happened to us so far…We were playing pretty well before that, just I think we’re being rewarded a little more now.”
VASY IN GOAL
Cooper said Andrei Vasilevskiy will be in net tonight for the Lightning, Vasilevskiy getting his second start in three games.
With the NHL and AHL All-Star breaks coming up the next couple weeks, the opportunity to get Vasilevskiy starts in Syracuse isn’t available, so Cooper wants to keep his backup goalie primed with a few more starts than usual.
Prior to the current home stand, when the Lightning play seven of eight at Amalie Arena, Cooper said he wanted to get Vasilevskiy at least two starts. At today’s post-morning skate press conference, Cooper said Vasilevskiy might get a third start too.
Also, Brian Boyle, who missed Sunday’s 3-1 victory over division leader Florida with a lower-body injury, will be in the lineup tonight according to Cooper. Boyle centered the Bolts fourth line during morning line rushes alongside left wing Cedric Paquette and a combination of Erik Condra and Jonathan Marchessault on his right.
Cooper said with Boyle back, Marchessault will be scratched tonight.
The Lightning can win six games in a row for the first time since late October-early November of last season.
Cooper said the current streak is modest compared to the 28-consecutive games his Norfolk Admirals won during the 2011-12 season, which set a North American professional sports record.
“You walk in every single night, it’s 1-0 for you,” Cooper remembered about that stretch. “That’s how those streaks build.”
With each win, momentum continues to snowball until you feel you can’t lose.
“Teams know you’ve got a streak,” Cooper said. “They’re in the back of their mind thinking, ‘Oh my God, these guys are on a roll.’…There’s definitely something to be said about momentum. I don’t think it’s a one-game thing.”
ODDS AND ENDS
Tampa Bay is 7-3-0 versus Pacific Division opponents…The last three meetings between the Lightning and the Oilers have ended in a 3-2 score…Nikita Nesterov has registered two assists this season, both coming in the last two games…The Lightning have moved up to 14th in the league for goals scored at 2.60 per game. For a time, the Bolts were in the bottom five in the league in that category.