Lightning look to get back on track vs. skidding Blue Jackets

NHL Hockey

With 10 games left in the regular season, Tampa Bay Lightning coach Jon Cooper feels his club needs to sharpen its game down the stretch.

Having split six contests against Columbus, the Lightning (30-14-2, 62 points) will finish their season series by hosting the Blue Jackets in night games on Thursday and Sunday.

Tampa Bay has won just twice in its last five games, with the victories occurring on game-winning overtime tallies by Victor Hedman and Yanni Gourde over Florida and Carolina, respectively.

“For me, it’s more about getting our game consistently playing well,” Cooper said after the Lightning’s 4-1 loss Tuesday earned visiting Carolina a two-game split. “Now we’ve got a Columbus team — probably the trip against the Panthers didn’t fare out the way they wanted to. I’m sure they’re going to come in here buzzing.”

The coach said the results against the most recent three competitors — Nashville, Florida and the Hurricanes — came as no surprise.

“Nashville was a desperate team — they’re trying to get in (the playoffs),” said Cooper. “We played the two top teams besides ourselves in our division. Those were pretty good games. You’re not going to blaze through the regular season. We’d like to pick up more points; we’re used to doing that.”

Topping the NHL in goalie wins, Andrei Vasilevskiy (27-8-1) denied 57 of 62 shots in the back-to-back games against Carolina and will likely get one of the Columbus games off.

The Blue Jackets (15-24-9, 39 points) have seen their season fall apart after appearing to improve their lineup by adding Patrik Laine to their offense in January.

Columbus has slipped to last in the standings — tied with Detroit in points but owning a division-low 15 wins with only eight games remaining on its schedule.

In Sunrise, Fla., in a two-night span, coach John Tortorella’s struggling group was outscored 9-3 by the surging Panthers and continued to make the mistakes at the blue line that have consistently plagued Columbus.

The Blue Jackets have won just twice since March 21, going 2-12-2 in a 16-game skid.

Tortorella said his offensively challenged squad — which has scored two goals or fewer in nine of its last 14 games — has a thin margin of error when it hits the ice.

Down 2-1 Tuesday, Columbus appeared to tie the contest on Jack Roslovic’s second tally, but Florida challenged that forward Stefan Matteau was offside on the two-on-one and the goal was taken off the board.

“It’s a 5-1 game, but I think we’re involved in it,” Tortorella said after his team’s loss Tuesday night. “There were some turnovers at 3-1 that kind of put it away. We’re just not a team that can have one taken away. I think Stef sees this pressure coming behind him, but he’s got to drag his leg or do something to stay onside there.

“But it’s the turnovers — the self-inflicted ones — that we just won’t recover (from) with our hockey club we have right now. We’re just not developing enough offense to recover from those.”

For the second straight game, top-six left wing Max Domi was a healthy scratch, but Tortorella would not discuss what the 2013 first-round pick would have to do to get back in the lineup.

“I’m not having conversations about that,” Tortorella replied.

–Field Level Media

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