Life on the ice for the Tampa Bay Lightning since their team-record nine game winning streak came to an end two-weeks ago has seen them drop from the top of the Atlantic Division standings to third as they’ve lost five of six games since.
The Lightning (40-26-5) will look to get back on track not only to snap a two-game losing streak but to salvage a split of their four-game road trip when they face-off against the Arizona Coyotes on Saturday night (Mar. 19). This game marks the second and final meeting this season with the Bolts hoping to sweep the season series for the second consecutive year.
In their first meeting on Feb. 23 at Amalie Arena the Lightning defeated the Coyotes 2-1. Steven Stamkos scored the game’s opening goal, and Cedric Paquette tallied the game winner on a shorthanded penalty shot. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves on 30 Arizona shots to win his 10th game of the season. Paquette’s penalty shot conversion was the Bolts first successful penalty shot in four attempts this season and first conversion since April 8, 2011. The Lightning is 19-14-1 all-time against Arizona with the Bolts having won four of their last five and seven of their last nine in Arizona. Overall in Arizona the Lightning is 10-8-0.
Arizona (31-32-7) has won three games in a row and has outscored opponents 11-2 during that span. With 69 points and 12 games left, the Coyotes are nine points behind second-place Colorado in the Western Conference wild-card standings.
Coyotes’ rookie goalie Louis Domingue will make his 33rd start in goal in place of ex-Bolt Mike Smith, who just returned from an absence of 40 games due to core muscle surgery in December. This is Domingue’s second career appearance against the Lightning (0-1-0). Overall on the season his record stands at 14-15-5, with a 2.72 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage.
Ben Bishop (29-19-4, 2.06 GAA, .927 SV%) is likely to get the start for the Bolts and comes in with a 3-0-1 record with a 3.20 GAA and a .867 save percentage in four career games all-time against the Coyotes. Bishop has not faced the Coyotes this season.
Although the Lightning is just four points behind the division leading Florida Panthers and one point behind the Boston Bruins, one needs to look no further than the conference standings where the Philadelphia Flyers currently holding the ninth spot are slowly inching their way up just five points behind the Bolts.
The toughest part of their recent struggles is that the Bolts are finding ways not to win but to lose and seem to be playing without a sense of urgency. They’ve played hard, played with confidence for a period or two, checked, back-checked and even outshot their opponents only to see a lead fall by the wayside.
The road trip started with a 4-0 win over Columbus on Sunday as Ben Bishop made 37 saves in route to his 29th win of the season. However, two night’s later in Toronto the Bolts lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1 who sit in 30th place in the league standings.
In their most recent game on Thursday night in Dallas, the Bolts had a 3-2 heading into the third period – a lead that they had on three separate occasions only to see the Stars come back to tie the game each time and eventually taking the lead and holding on for the win. The loss was just the Bolts second in 33 games when leading after two periods.