The Tampa Bay Lightning saw their seven-game win streak come to an end Saturday night in Sunrise following a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center.
But before the team takes a five-day hiatus for the All-Star Game, the Bolts want to start a new streak and go into the All-Star break on a high note.
“I know we’re going to get a break for the All-Star Game, but our most important game on our schedule is coming up Wednesday night (vs. Toronto),” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “We need to win that one. We need to go in this break back on the winning track and prepare for our push to the playoffs.”
Teams that have gone on long winning streaks in the NHL this season have often followed them up with a lengthy losing skid. Chicago set a new franchise record with 12-straight wins but lost in successive nights to Tampa Bay and Florida by a combined 6-1 score.
Florida also recorded 12 victories in a row and then followed up with four-consecutive losses.
The Lightning want to avoid letting their loss Saturday turn into multiple losses.
“We don’t want that to happen to us,” Cooper said. “That’s been talked about is to learn from this and that’s why we’ve got to get to work today and another work day tomorrow and then be ready to play Toronto on Wednesday. That’s our clear focus is, ‘OK, you know what, give Florida credit, they knocked us off, but let’s get back on the winning track.’”
With the Lightning having won seven of their last eight games, the All-Star break could be coming at a bad time for the team considering everybody’s healthy and seems to be hitting their stride.
Bolts captain Steven Stamkos, however, said the five days off are a good time to refocus on the task ahead, no matter how well the team is performing on the ice.
“I think guys really embrace the break,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, when things are going well, you don’t want it to stop, but we lost so we want to go into the break with a win and just recharge. The second half of the season really starts after the All-Star break and the push, so you want to make sure guys are healthy and recharged and rejuvenated. Hopefully we can take care of business against Toronto and go from there.”
IN THE NIK OF TIME
Not too much went right for the Lightning in their loss to the Atlantic Division-leading Florida Panthers on Saturday, but Bolts forward Nikita Kucherov picked up an assist on Victor Hedman’s third-period goal to extend his point streak to eight games, tying a Bolts’ season high.
Kucherov also owns Tampa Bay’s other eight-game point streak this season, which he set from December 15 to January 2. During that stretch, Kucherov scored three goals and had nine assists.
On his current streak, Kucherov has scored six goals in eight games and added four assists.
“He’s a guy that’s a pretty versatile guy,” Stamkos said. “He can play with different guys. He’s hot right now. When things are going well for him, they really go well. He’s a guy that stepped up and realized the way things are going this year, when things weren’t going well, he’s a guy that’s consistently played well every game.
“It’s been fun to watch.”
Kucherov’s eight-game point streaks were separated by a single game, so he potentially could be on a 17-game point run had he tallied a point January 5 at Calgary.
On his current run, Kucherov has netted two game-winning goals and two game-opening goals.
Kucherov can extend his point streak to a Bolts-season-best nine games with a goal or assist on Wednesday against Toronto.
The Lightning franchise record for consecutive games with a point, by the way, is 18, established by Stamkos during the 2009-10 season (17 goals, 16 assists).