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Canucks, Lightning begin busy pre-Olympic stretch

by Magalie Lafreni?re
CANUCKS (35-20-2) at LIGHTNING (25-21-11)

Last 10: Vancouver 8-2-0; Tampa Bay 7-2-1

Season series:
This is the only meeting between the two clubs this season. In their only encounter of last season, the Canucks took a 2-1 victory over Tampa on Feb. 27 in Vancouver. Alexander Edler and Steve Bernier had goals for Vancouver, while Steven Stamkos scored for the Bolts.
Big Story: The Lightning are definitely on the upswing with seven wins in their last 10 games. With four games left before the Olympic break, Tampa will be looking to get a stronger foothold in the Eastern Conference playoff race. The Bolts currently sit in seventh place with 61 points. The Canucks, who lead the Northwest Division, also have four more games before the break and will be playing their fifth game in their 14-game road trip.

Team Scope:

Canucks: The Canucks were close to losing their third straight when they faced the Bruins on Saturday afternoon. Boston outshot Vancouver 43-31, but the Canucks came away with a 3-2 overtime win thanks to a couple of key players. Vancouver right wing Pavol Demitra scored late in the third to force the extra period and had the only goal in the shootout. Roberto Luongo, who was named first star, kept the B's off the scoresheet after the first, finishing with 41 saves.

"Lui was a big reason we won the game," Demitra said. "He stepped up for us and he played an unbelievable game, even in the shootout. He's working on that every day in practice and you can see it. He's just an unbelievable goalie."

The Flames had a 1-0 lead over the Lightning for two periods on Saturday, but Tampa rallied to grab a 2-1 win. Stamkos scored a backhanded goal early in third period to force overtime, where defenseman Andrej Meszaros scored the game-winner just 1:58 in. Goalie Antero Niittymaki made 25 saves to improve his record to 6-0-1 in his last seven starts.

"That was one of the toughest games for grinding it out," coach Rick Tocchet said. "It was nice in the third period. It seemed like everyone did something to contribute. We really had some energy."

Who's hot: Martin St. Louis broke a five-game goal streak on Saturday, but has at least a point in his last six games. Stamkos is riding a career-high nine-game point streak with 14 points. … For Vancouver, left wing Mason Raymond has had three goals and three assist in his last five games, while Demitra has had a point in each of his last three games.

Injury report: Tampa defenseman David Hale is out with a broken right leg while the Canucks are without defensemen Willie Mitchell (concussion) and Kevin Bieksa (severed ankle tendons) and center Alexandre Bolduc (shoulder).

Stat pack: The Lightning haven't won four straight games since Nov. 7-16, 2007, when they were on a five-game win streak.

Puck Drop:
"Two-and-two and 1-3 are two totally different things. We want to make sure we are better than .500 … on the road trip," Luongo said. "Our road record is not where we want it to be (12-13-1) and we have to find ways to be better on the road like we were tonight."

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