If the Tampa Bay Lightning had a sign hanging outside their dressing room to summarize their current situation, it would read: “No Kucherov, No Stamkos … No worries!”
The winning has continued this week for the Lightning despite playing without Nikita Kucherov — last year’s league MVP and Tampa Bay’s top goal scorer — and captain Steven Stamkos, the team’s heart and soul.
To add to the ailments, speedy bottom-six forward Anthony Cirelli also is out. All of them are sidelined with lower-body injuries.
Owners of the NHL’s longest active winning streak at nine games, the Lightning will try to move that number into double figures Saturday afternoon at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
The meeting will be the second between the Eastern Conference foes. Tampa Bay claimed a 1-0 win on Jan. 11 in Philadelphia behind a 23-save showing by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the game’s lone goal by Pat Maroon.
The Lightning won again on Thursday night, ousting the visiting Edmonton Oilers 3-1. The visitors were playing without Connor McDavid for the second game. Vasilevskiy and a stout defense limited the Pacific Division club to just one goal — a tally by defenseman Caleb Jones.
“You get up for teams you played for,” said Maroon, who scored the first goal Thursday and played for Edmonton from 2015-2018. “You always find a way to get points against them.”
Tampa Bay, who has soared through the conference standings, is currently pursuing the first-place Boston Bruins in the race for the top spot in the Atlantic Division. The club trails Boston by just one point, and each team has played 58 games.
The Lightning have earned points in 11 straight games (10-0-1) and are a sterling 21-2-1 over their last 24 games.
Vasilevskiy stonewalled Edmonton all night, stopping 29 shots to post his NHL-best 31st win.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s top goalie, Vasilevskiy stretched his point streak to 20 games (18-0-2) and held the Oilers’ Leon Draisaitl — the league’s top scorer with 90 points — to just a single assist Thursday.
The victory was the team’s 10th straight on home ice, tying the franchise’s longest streak. The club also won 10 consecutive from Dec. 11, 2014 to Jan. 31, 2015.
The Flyers couldn’t score at home against the Lightning last month, but finding the net was no problem Thursday night in South Florida.
Philadelphia strung together three goals against the Florida Panthers, while James van Riemsdyk (goal, two assists) and Justin Braun (three assists) each produced three-point games as the Flyers won 6-2 and improved to 7-2-1 in their last 10 games.
With the Flyers up 4-0 after 40 minutes of play, Florida scored twice in the third period and made a strong rush that yielded a quality chance for forward Evgenii Dadonov, but goalie Carter Hart denied the right wing’s close attempt with a dive.
“I’m just trying to keep the puck out of the net. Whether it’s 4-0 and 4-2. I’m just trying to stop the puck,” said Hart, who beat the Panthers twice this week by stopping 56 of 59 shots on Monday and Thursday.
–Field Level Media