The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to cruise along at the top of the NHL and look to extend their winning streak to six games Saturday night when the improving New York Islanders pay a visit. The Lightning are 6-0-1 since losing in regulation for only the second time this season and eased to a 6-1 victory over Dallas on Thursday with a workmanlike performance for 60 minutes.
“We had a game plan and we stuck to it,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos told reporters after posting two goals and two assists Thursday to push his league-leading total to 35 points in 19 games. “We emphasized that we wanted to keep our foot on the gas and keep pressing. When you can do that, it sucks the life out of the team and gives them no hope to come back.” The Lightning attempt to extend their winning streak to eight games against the Islanders, including playoffs, after outscoring them 14-2 in three triumphs last season. New York has been a different team this season, though, and notched at least a point for the fourth time in five games (3-1-1) Thursday by rallying for a 6-4 victory over Carolina. “It says a lot about where we are as a team right now that we can bounce back like we did,” Islanders center Casey Cizikas told reporters. “You’re not going to play every period perfect. It’s how you respond.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, MSG Plus (New York), FSN Sun (Tampa Bay)
ABOUT THE ISLANDERS (10-6-2): Josh Bailey recorded a goal and an assist Thursday to take over the team lead with 20 points - one better than Anders Lee and captain John Tavares, who has only one in the past four contests. Lee has one goal and three assists in the last two games while rookie forward Mathew Barzal scored once and helped set up two others in the victory over Carolina to push his point total to 17. Jordan Eberle has also scored in back-to-back contests and defenseman Nick Leddy boasts a goal and three assists in the last two games.
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (15-2-2): Stamkos has prospered while skating with Nikita Kucherov (NHL-leading 17 goals) and Vladislav Namestnikov, who has 20 points - eight shy of his total in 74 games last season. “They want to produce, they like to produce, and they are producing,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said after Thursday’s win. “They’re the engine that starts our team.” Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has gone 14 games without a regulation loss (13-0-1) and boasts a .943 save percentage in five outings this month, allowing one goal each in his last three.
1. New York F Brock Nelson has gone seven games without a point and nine without a goal.
2. The Lightning are 18-for-18 on the penalty kill over the last seven games and New York is 1-for-11 on the power play in the past four.
3. The Islanders are 4-6-0 on the road and 6-0-2 at home - one of only two teams not to lose in regulation in their own arena.
PREDICTION: Lightning 5, Islanders 3