A loss to the New Jersey Devils earlier this month began a bad stretch that cost Tampa Bay Lightning coach Barry Melrose his job. Rick Tocchet hopes he just started a good one.
The Lightning look to build off their first win under Tocchet and even their season series with the Devils on Sunday.
Tampa Bay (6-7-6) has gotten points in all three games since Tocchet took over for Melrose, who was fired Nov. 14 after the team's third straight defeat and fifth in six games - the first of which was a 4-3 shootout loss at New Jersey on Nov. 5.
The Lightning followed Melrose's abrupt departure with two shootout losses before getting Tocchet his first coaching victory on Friday, 4-1 over Nashville.
"It's great," Tocchet said after Tampa Bay's five-game skid ended. "It's like scoring your first NHL goal. The last couple games and how hard we worked, it was nice to get the win."
It would be nice to finally get one against the Devils, who have won four straight and seven of eight versus the Lightning. They won the only meeting this season thanks to goals by Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner in the shootout.
Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier also scored in that shootout - he had two goals Friday - but Jussi Jokinen and Vaclav Prospal were stopped by Kevin Weekes. The veteran netminder enters the rematch with renewed confidence, having stopped 27 shots for his 100th NHL victory as New Jersey beat the New York Islanders 5-2 on Friday.
Weekes had been benched in favor of Scott Clemmensen the previous three games after posting a 3.25 goals-against average in his first four starts replacing the injured Martin Brodeur.
"It's always fun when you get a chance to play," said Weekes, who spent a season and a half with Tampa earlier this decade. "It's a privilege to play in the NHL and I've always had that attitude my entire career. This one was pretty special."
The Devils (10-7-2) have tied a season high with three straight wins, with Elias totaling three goals and four assists. He has a goal and an assist in each of his last two games versus the Lightning. Brian Gionta has scored in three straight games - he also has two assists in that span - and has four goals in his last three games at Tampa.
Lecavalier and Steve Eminger each has four points over the last three games (1-0-2) for the Lightning.
"Our last three games, I think, we've had a lot of energy," said Lecavalier, who leads the team with nine goals and 15 points.
The Lightning could be short-handed again after center Chris Gratton (lower body) and left wing Gary Roberts (upper body) sat out Friday. Ryan Malone, who had three assists, left in the second period due to soreness after missing the previous four games with a lower-body injury.
The Devils will be missing defenseman Mike Mottau, who was suspended for two games by the NHL for elbowing Islanders forward Frans Nielsen on Friday.