After more than a week away, the Tampa Bay Lightning will head back to their home ice Tuesday night to host the Anaheim Ducks.
Coach Jon Cooper’s group returned from a road trip that featured a 2-1-1 showing by beating the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche to open the trip.
However, the club was shut out by Arizona Coyotes goaltender Connor Ingram (47 saves) in a 1-0 shootout loss and fell 5-4 to the Vegas Golden Knights on Saturday despite rebounding from a 4-2 first-period deficit.
It was a successful swing for the Lightning, but they need to keep pecking away at points in order to solidify their third-place Atlantic Division spot behind the Boston Bruins and Toronto Maple Leafs.
They trail the Leafs by three points and hold two games in hand. The clubs will meet for the final time on April 11 in Tampa in the season’s next-to-last match.
But for now, getting back on home ice is front and center for the Lightning.
They are 21-4-2 at home and 1-0-1 in February, with only home contests against the Buffalo Sabres and Florida Panthers left this month.
In its last game, the club suffered a 5-4 setback at the Golden Knights, and Cooper did not like his team’s final 20 minutes.
“My disappointment is, in a game we felt we were controlling, we didn’t push like we should have in the third,” Cooper said. “Regardless of whether it’s a road trip or not, there’s one period left to play and we’re headed home.”
The Eastern Conference champions are 11-8-1 all-time against Anaheim on their home ice and beat the Pacific Division team 4-2 in their first meeting on Oct. 26 in Southern California.
On Monday afternoon in Sunrise, Fla., the Ducks led the majority of the game against Florida before the Panthers came back to win 4-3 in overtime.
Ex-Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov (goal, assist) and left winger Frank Vatrano (goal) helped put the Ducks in a position to win, going up 3-2 with 7:09 left in the game after Kulikov netted his third marker of the season.
But Vatrano coughed up the puck in the extra session’s three-on-three play, then Carter Verhaeghe streaked in for his 30th tally to hand the Panthers their sixth straight victory over Anaheim (0-3-3).
Mason McTavish scored his 13th goal off his own rebound. That gave the 20-year-old center 32 points this season, tied for second among rookies.
A high-energy forward who had 73 goals and 53 assists in 271 games for Florida from 2017 to 2021, Vatrano said his club played well despite being outshot 55-32 by the Panthers.
“They had a good second half, and I thought the third (period) was pretty even,” Vatrano said. “We were in it all the way. We scored a late one there, then they get one right back. Overall, we could clean up a couple areas, but I thought we played overall a pretty solid game.”
Anaheim is 1-4-2 in its past seven matches and has been outscored 40-19.
–Field Level Media