Few things have gone right for the Minnesota Wild during their lengthy homestand, but facing the Tampa Bay Lightning could bring better results.
On Friday afternoon, the Wild seek to close out a season-high five-game stretch at Xcel Energy Center on a positive note against the struggling Lightning.
Minnesota (12-7-1) has led at some point during all four games of this homestand, but has wound up losing three of them. After giving up three third-period goals Monday but holding on for a 4-3 victory over Washington, they squandered a two-goal lead Wednesday in a 4-3 defeat to Dallas.
"We've had a few games that are disappointing, and they seem to be coming in bunches," said winger Andrew Brunette, who scored his team-leading seventh goal versus Dallas. "I guess there should be (concern). We squandered one and got away last game, and (Wednesday night) we weren't so lucky."
Eric Belanger scored and provided an assist for the Wild, who had two apparent goals disallowed and were outshot for the first time in eight contests.
"It was a strange game," coach Jacques Lemaire told the Wild's official Web site. "Guys are playing as well as they can. Guys are trying. It's going to happen, you're going to make a mistake (and) the puck goes in. We don't make too many mistakes."
There haven't been many miscues in Minnesota's history versus Tampa Bay (6-8-7). The Wild lead the all-time series 6-2-0 with a tie, have won three of four on home ice and have taken the last two overall matchups, most recently a 1-0 shootout win on Oct. 18 in Florida.
Niklas Backstrom has compiled a 0.96 goals-against average and a .969 save percentage while winning both of his career starts against the Lightning. He made 26 saves Wednesday, and continues to rank among the league leaders with a 2.16 GAA and a .927 save percentage.
Despite its recent struggles, Minnesota has still allowed a Western Conference-low 43 goals. Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has scored a league-worst 48 goals this season, and has managed two or fewer in 11 of its 12 games in November.
Ryan Malone and Mark Recchi scored for the Lightning in Wednesday's 3-2 shootout loss to the Atlantic Division-leading New York Rangers, capping a homestand with three losses in four games.
Despite dropping nine of their last 11 overall, the Lightning remain in third place in the Southeast Division.
"It's disappointing, obviously, not getting the two points, but it's not a lack of effort," said right wing Martin St. Louis, who notched his team-high 11th assist Wednesday. "If we play like that and battle like that game in and game out, I like our chances of coming out on top."
Tampa Bay received another strong performance from Mike Smith, who made 33 saves through overtime before both shootout attempts scored against him. He's 2-2-1 with a 1.28 GAA and a .943 save percentage in five career starts versus Minnesota.
Lightning assistant coach Wes Walz, who played for the Wild from their inception in 2000 until he retired last December, will be honored before the game.