While the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to find ways to win, the losses are piling up for the Minnesota Wild.
The surging Lightning look to hand the Wild a season-high fifth consecutive defeat on Thursday night in Saint Paul, Minn.
Two days after its potential season-defining 10-game winning streak ended with a 3-1 loss at New Jersey, Tampa Bay rallied from an early two-goal deficit to beat the visiting Los Angeles Kings 4-3 in a shootout on Tuesday. Alex Killorn scored his team-leading 19th goal, and Nikita Kucherov notched his 18th with 1:15 left in regulation to force overtime.
The Lightning rebounded from a 2-0 first-period hole to improve to 14-3-1 since Dec. 10.
“You (play) 82 games, you’re not going to start perfect every single game,” coach Jon Cooper told the Lightning’s official website. “We’ve played a lot of hockey. It was a little concerning to be down two the way we came out for the game.
“But, I tend to look at the positive and say I like the way we finished the (first) period (with two goals). … To get back to even was definitely what we needed. We needed a jump.”
The Lightning have gotten that jump of late from Kucherov (five goals, 10 points in nine games) and sizzling goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (1.77 goals-against average, .943 save percentage during nine-game winning streak). While Tampa Bay is 2 of 18 on the power play in 2020, it has also killed 31 of 33 penalties over the last 10 contests.
As the Lightning begin a six-game road stretch, they’ll try to snap their 0-3-1 rut versus Minnesota. Killorn scored, and Vasilevskiy managed only 16 saves during Tampa Bay’s 5-4 home loss to the Wild on Dec. 5.
Since that victory, however, Minnesota is just 6-9-2 and currently mired in an 0-3-1 slide that includes three consecutive regulation defeats. The Wild were down 4-0 early in the second period on Tuesday during a 7-3 loss at Pittsburgh.
Zach Parise ended a 10-game goal drought with two scores, and Marcus Foligno stayed hot with his fifth goal in five games for Minnesota. However, a lineup-card gaffe by coach Bruce Boudreau had the Wild playing with only five defenseman and facing an uphill climb in trying to end their recent struggles.
“Forget this, and let’s get back at it,” Boudreau told NHL.com. “This is what we did early on in the year, is we said ‘Woe is me’ on our mistakes, and then it goes for a big slide. We have to end the slide now, no matter who we’re playing.”
The Wild, one of the most generous defensive teams in the league allowing 3.37 goals per game, need to improve a penalty kill that has opponents 9 of 26 on the power play over the last six games.
Minnesota goaltender Devan Dubnyk has a 3.73 goals-against average while losing four of his last six starts. However, he has a 1.55 goals-against average in going 4-2-1 versus Tampa Bay. Backup Alex Stalock has a 3.94 goals-against average during a 0-3-1 starting stretch.
Tampa Bay backup Curtis McElhinney, 5-5-2 with a 3.10 goals-against average this season, has won three straight starts against Wild. However, his last came in October 2018 while with Carolina.
–Field Level Media