The Tampa Bay Lightning can set a new high-water mark for most home victories in franchise history tonight when they host the Dallas Stars.
The Lightning tied the record with their 25th win at Amalie Arena this season on Thursday against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Bolts have nine home games remaining to pick up win No. 26 and make history.
“I think we’ve really tried to make a point of making this a very tough building for other teams to come in and win,” said Lightning captain Steven Stamkos, who has goals four goals in the last four games and ranks third in the NHL with 36 total markers this season. “To tie a franchise record with still a lot of home games left, I think guys want to push that and want to be part of a team that obviously has the record.”
Tampa Bay has shut out two of its last three opponents and won 14 of its last 16 games at Amalie Arena.
“I think we go out there with the mentality we’re going to win the game,” Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman said. “It’s nothing different on the road, but at home, you have the fans on your back and it’s almost always sold out and there’s a good atmosphere out there.”
Hedman reiterated the Lightning have yet to play a full 60-minute game in its last three outings and will need to put together a complete game to continue winning games down the stretch.
“Even though we haven’t played to our best, we’ve still found a way to win, and that says a lot about this team,” he said. “…We’re finding ways to win, and that’s important at this time of year to get those two points and yourselves in a good spot for the last 15 (games).”
Lightning TV play-by-play announcer Rick Peckham brought up an interesting stat at head coach Jon Cooper’s pregame press conference.
Over Tampa Bay’s last seven games, the team has won five and given up five goals total in each.
In two losses at Colorado and at Florida, the Lightning have allowed nine goals.
“I look at the Colorado game, and we didn’t play all that bad in that game,” Cooper said. “It’s just when we blew up, we really blew up. It was just glaring error, pucks on the wrong guys’ stick in open ice, and they just ended up in the back of our net.
“To me, that was a rare game for us.”
In the 4-3 loss to the Panthers, the Lightning’s loss was mostly self-inflicted.
“One goal was scored from behind the net off (Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop). One went off (Jason) Garrison in, and the other went off (Anton Stralman) right to whoever was in front and tapped it in,” Cooper said. “We had a big part in that. So, again, you can sit here and say when we blew up, we blew up, but just kind of in a different way.”
Cooper doesn’t see the losses as a signal to a deeper problem but rather an aberration that is easily correctible.
“When it all comes down to it, I guess if you’re going to turn the puck over in the wrong areas of the ice, there’s a pretty good chance if it doesn’t end up in the back of your net, you’re swinging momentum the wrong way,” Cooper said. “You’re always chasing the puck back to the defensive zone instead of going the other way, and I think if there’s something that’s a hole in our game, you will see us not get pucks 200 feet, we’re not owning the blue lines, we’re turning them over and those games are probably an indication of why that happened.”
Two of the top offensive teams in the NHL will square off tonight when the Bolts host the Stars.
The Lightning have scored the most goals in the league (215) and have the highest goals per game average (3.26).
Dallas is tied for third in the NHL at 3.08 goals a game.
“We know they have a lot of skill up front, a lot of speed, a lot of D that can move the puck and shoot the puck, so we have to go in there with the mentality it’s going to be a close game,” Hedman said. “For us, it’s about focusing on our game and trying to get the puck 200 feet and work their D down low.”
The last time these two teams faced each other, a 5-3 Tampa Bay victory on February 5 in Dallas, the Lightning held leads of 2-0 and 3-2 before the Stars came back to tie each time. Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov scored goals in the game’s final five minutes to finally put the Stars away for good.
“We can’t get into a shootout,” Stamkos said. “Sometimes the tendency is to play that run and gun style when you’re facing an opponent that has that much firepower. We kind of got into that a little bit in Dallas, and we saw a two-goal lead slip away and them getting a lot of chances.”
BROWN STILL NOT READY
Lightning forward J.T. Brown will sit his second-straight game with an upper-body injury suffered Tuesday against Buffalo, but Cooper thinks the 24 year old should be ready for the Bolts upcoming road trip, which starts Tuesday in Montreal.
“He’s close,” Cooper said. “I’d be surprised if he doesn’t play on the road trip for sure.”