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Lightning finding ways to continue piling up points

The Bolts ride a five-game winning streak into tonight's matchup vs. Ottawa

by Bryan Burns /

The Tampa Bay Lightning have played seven overtime games in their last eight contests, including a 3-2 shootout victory over the Montreal Canadiens at AMALIE Arena their last time on the ice Saturday.

Of those seven games, the Lightning have come out victorious in six of them.

Sure, there are concerns the Bolts have needed overtime to win some of these games. They blew a 4-2 lead in the third period to the Florida Panthers March 6 before prevailing in overtime thanks to Brayden Point's heroics. Two games prior, the Lightning let another 4-2 advantage in the final period slip away in Dallas on March 1, the Stars scoring with four seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game before Cory Conacher salvaged both points in overtime for the Bolts with an unbelievable backhander and tip while on his back into goal.

But, as Conacher's gritty goal exemplified, the Lightning are finding different ways to win games each time out.

And that trait is an important one as the Bolts gear up for the final 13 games of the regular season and what is hoped to be a lengthy playoff run.

Video: Preview | Lightning vs. Senators

"We're obviously very happy with the way we've shown tenacity," Tampa Bay defenseman Victor Hedman said following Tuesday's morning skate. "We've shown that we can find ways to win. We don't give up, it doesn't matter if it's overtime, a shootout or regulation. We need to find ways to win and push teams behind us and have a good winning mentality going into the postseason. Obviously very happy that we're finding different ways to win. That shows we're a good team that we can do that."

The Lightning have developed a mentality of late where they never feel they're out of a game. Each time they step on the ice, they expect to win.

And for good reason too as their 9-0-1 record over their last 10 games and current five-game win streak can attest to.

"It's confidence," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos explained. "When you're finding ways to win, you go into games expecting to win and during games, whatever the situation is, you know someone's going to step up and we've had multiple guys step up. It just goes to show the depth that we have."

Tampa Bay will try to pick up two more points and inch closer to clinching a playoff berth tonight when they host the Ottawa Senators at AMALIE Arena (7:30 p.m. puck drop), the second of three-straight games versus Atlantic Division foes.

The Lightning's magic number to clinch is four, meaning any combination of points accrued by the Bolts or points lost by Columbus would whittle that number closer to zero.

Video: Cooper | Pregame TBL vs. OTT

The Bolts can secure their postseason spot without any outside help with wins against Ottawa and again Saturday when they host the Boston Bruins, the team trying to chase the Lightning down in the Atlantic Division standings.

For the Lightning, it's two wins and in.

"Our goal is to win as many games as we can. It hasn't changed all year," Stamkos said. "We put ourselves in a really good position to be confident and be comfortable and the work that we've put in this year. There are still some improvements. You use these games to get that extra gear and get the guys going ready for playoffs. Obviously, we want to finish as high as we can in the standings, make sure we get home ice. We know how important that is from some of our previous playoff runs. That's the goal in here."

In Saturday's win over the Canadiens, the Lightning won despite entering the third period down a goal, a welcome change from recent games where the Bolts were outplayed over the final 20 minutes. They're hoping the confidence gained from the comeback against the Canadiens will carry over to tonight's Ottawa contest as well as down the stretch of the regular season.

"It just goes back to when you get in the playoffs, you have to be comfortable playing with a one-goal lead or down a goal," Stamkos said. "There can't be any situation where you don't feel confident as a team that you're either going to shut the door or you're going to get one late and tie it. That was an example of the game, going into the third, we had a game plan, we wanted to try and find a way to get back and win the game and we did. You just have to be comfortable in those situations. There's been stretches this year where we've had leads going into the third where, for whatever reason, we haven't been able to hold them. There hasn't been that confidence level in the room. We're slowly gaining it and just make sure you have it come playoff time."

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