The Tampa Bay Lightning are ascending in the Atlantic due in large part due to their run of dominance against their division rivals.
The Lightning aim to extend their season-high five-game winning streak overall — and 13-game stretch of good fortune vs. Atlantic Division adversaries — on Saturday when they visit the Ottawa Senators.
Tampa Bay, in third place in the Atlantic, recorded its second one-goal victory over the Montreal Canadiens in six days with a 2-1 triumph in Montreal on Thursday.
The Lightning scored both of their goals in the first period, with Anthony Cirelli’s deft deflection just 42 seconds into the game serving as his third tally in four contests.
“The one big thing was getting off to a quick start, so it was really good to score on that first shift,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “It’s a different game when you play with the lead, and that kind of dictated the way we played a little bit.”
Reigning Hart Trophy recipient Nikita Kucherov scored what proved to be the game-winning goal less than eight minutes later, and Vezina Trophy recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 38 shots to preserve the victory.
“It’s easier for me to play with 30 to 40 shots against than with 10 shots against,” Vasilevskiy said. “I felt pretty good and we did a great job of blocking shots, and we were pretty good in the blue paint on all the scrambles.”
Vasilevskiy has an 8-1-1 record in his past 10 starts overall, a stretch that includes a 25-save performance in the Lightning’s 4-3 overtime victory over Ottawa on Dec. 17. Cirelli split a pair of defenders and scored with 19 seconds remaining in the extra session of that game.
Vasilevskiy was not in net in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 setback in Ottawa on Oct. 12, a game that marked the last time the Lightning fell short against an Atlantic Division adversary.
Former Tampa Bay star Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first two goals in a Senators’ uniform in that contest to give D.J. Smith his first career coaching win.
Namestnikov, who was selected by the Lightning with the 27th overall pick in the 2011 NHL Draft, has been held off the scoresheet in five straight games and eight of his past 10, however.
Ottawa’s troubles fall in line with that path, as the club has dropped three in a row and 13 of its past 18 games (5-9-4) following a 6-3 setback to Florida on Thursday.
A four-goal second period led to the Senators’ undoing against the Panthers.
“I thought we came out really hard and had one of our best periods this year and the second was totally the opposite,” forward Jean-Gabriel Pageau said. “They came out and we didn’t win battles, we stopped shooting pucks and they were first on every puck.”
Pageau tallied a goal and an assist in the first encounter with the Lightning.
Craig Anderson, who made 19 saves in early-season win over Tampa Bay, sports an 11-7-5 record with three shutouts in 24 career appearances against the Lightning.
–Field Level Media