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Lightning seek third straight win against Wild

by Frank Mentesana
LIGHTNING (11-9-2) at WILD (13-7-3)


Last 10: Tampa Bay 6-4-0; Minnesota 6-4-0.

Season series: Monday's game is the lone meeting between these two teams this season. The Lightning and Wild squared off twice last season, with the visiting club winning each time. Niklas Backstrom made 37 saves in Minnesota's 4-1 victory last November, while Dwayne Roloson stopped 29 shots in Tampa Bay's 3-1 win on April 2. 

Big Story: The Lightning are hoping their last two games will serve as a launching pad to further success, while the Wild are looking to put their previous two games behind them as quickly as possible.

The Bolts narrowed the gap in the Southeast by sweeping a home-and-home series from the division-leading Florida Panthers. The Bolts are four points behind the Cats after a 2-1 overtime win on Friday and a 5-1 home victory on Saturday. But coach Guy Boucher doesn't have his eyes on the standings at the quarter-mark of the season.

"I don't care about the points," Boucher said. "That has nothing to do with our focus. It's about us being better than what we're supposed to be and in the end we'll see where the points take us. If you focus on other teams, you get lost."

The Wild are still atop the Northwest Division, but maintain just a two-point lead over Vancouver after dropping consecutive games at home to fellow division rivals -- Edmonton and Calgary.

Team Scope:

Lightning: Steven Stamkos and Mathieu Garon played pivotal roles in the Lightning's sweep of the Panthers. Stamkos notched the third OT winner of his career on Friday and posted two more goals and an assist on Saturday. Garon stopped 47 of Florida's 49 shots over the two matchups, recording his first wins since Oct. 25, as he and Roloson continue to share the goaltending duties. In the blowout win on Saturday, Tom Pyatt scored his first goal with the Lightning, while Martin St. Louis registered his 300th as a Bolt. St. Louis’ tally came just 2:07 into the contest, and Pyatt's marker was the first of three goals in a span of less than seven minutes early in the second period that broke the game open.

"Tonight we really pushed the pace," said Stamkos, whose 14 goals put him two behind Phil Kessel for the League lead. "We're utilizing our speed and we're confident right now. When you get confidence good things happen and you get rewarded."

With Monday's game in St. Paul, the Lightning begin a stretch of nine out of 12 on the road, where they are just 4-6-2.

Wild: Back-to-back losses have the Wild in danger of breaking even on a six-game homestand, which ends against the Lightning. They had won the first three games of the homestand to cap a five-game winning streak, but have been defeated by 5-2 scores in each of their last two. In Sunday's loss to Calgary, Backstrom was in goal for the first time in four games -- he was tending to a personal matter this week -- and surrendered three goals on only eight shots before being pulled in favor of Josh Harding. It was the first time in nearly two years that Backstrom was yanked from a home game.
The action was furious in the early-going as Calgary led 3-2 not even nine minutes into the game. The score remained that way until 1:39 into the third, when Alex Tanguay notched his fourth of the season to put Minnesota at a two-goal deficit; Jarome Iginla scored a few minutes later to provide the final margin.

"The good news is I don't think we can play worse than that. That's something to fall back on," coach Mike Yeo said.

Identical to the Lightning, the Wild will play nine of their next 12 on the road following their tilt with the Bolts.

Who's Hot: Stamkos has eight goals and six assists in his last 10 games. St. Louis has points in three of his previous four, with two goals and two assists in that span. … Wild captain Mikko Koivu has a five-game point streak (2-5-7).

Injury Report: The Lightning are still without defenseman Mattias Ohlund after arthroscopic surgery on both knees in the preseason. Forward Steve Downie has sat out two straight games with an upper-body injury and is day-to-day. … Minnesota defenseman Marek Zidlicky and forward Guillaume Latendresse are still sidelined with concussions and are nowhere near returning. Defenseman Mike Lundin (back spasms) has yet to make his season debut although he is practicing with the team, as is Greg Zanon, who hasn't played since Oct. 20 due to a groin injury.

Stat Pack: The Lightning successfully killed all six of the Panthers' power-play chances on Saturday, after holding Florida scoreless in four opportunities on Friday. Overall, opponents are just 3-for-40 on the power play in Tampa Bay's 11 wins this season. … Deuces are Wild, so to speak. Minnesota has the same amount of goals-scored-per-game as they do goals-allowed-per-game: 2.22.

Puck Drop: St. Louis now has 304 goals overall in his career, with the other four tallies coming as a Flame from 1998-2000.

"I'm proud of it," St. Louis said. "I'm proud to say that I've been on the same team for 11 years. If you told me 11 years ago I'd score 300 goals, I would have paid money for that."
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