Two teams coming off disappointing performances meet Sunday night to close out the 2017 portion of the schedule when the Tampa Bay Lightning open a five-game road trip against the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tampa Bay dropped a 5-3 decision to Philadelphia on Friday for its second loss in 12 games while the Blue Jackets coughed up a lead in the 5-4 setback at Ottawa the same night.
The Lightning, who boast a league-best 56 points, had won eight straight games at home before allowing two power-play goals and 29 shots on net in the final two periods against the Flyers. “When you win games a lot of things get swept under the rug, by you and the video as a team, by the media. Sometimes they just see you win,” Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos told reporters. “There’s flaws in our game that we want to improve. Just because we are winning doesn’t mean we’re satisfied.” Columbus has managed only three wins - all at home - in the last nine contests (3-4-2) and allowed four or more goals in three of the last six. “Any goal, whether it be good or bad, gives a team a lift,” Blue Jackets coach John Tortorella told reporters after his team squandered a 3-1 lead Friday. “But that’s how you play in the National Hockey League, is handle momentum, get momentum back on your side when you lose it, and we didn’t.”
TV: 6 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN Ohio (Columbus)
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (27-8-2): Nikita Kucherov posted a pair of assists Friday to extend his point streak to nine games and push his league-leading point total to 54 while Stamkos notched his third goal in two games. Tyler Johnson takes an 11-game point streak into Columbus after his 99th career goal Friday gave him six tallies and 10 assists during his run. Goalie Peter Budaj (left leg) was placed on injured reserve Saturday and Tampa Bay recalled Louis Domingue from Syracuse of the American Hockey League to back up No. 1 Andrei Vasilevskiy (league-best 24 wins, 2.08 goals-against average, .934 save percentage).
ABOUT THE BLUE JACKETS (22-14-3): Sergei Bobrovsky, who boasts 199 career victories, has struggled to an .896 save percentage over the last five games after giving up five goals on 28 shots Friday. Left wing Artemi Panarin owns three goals and three assists over the last four games to push his team-leading total to 34 points - 10 more than anyone else on the roster - while Sonny Milano has three goals in the past two contests. Seth Jones has three goals and four assists during his six-game point streak and fellow defenseman Zach Werenski scored his 11th goal Friday after missing four games with an undisclosed injury.
1. Columbus F Boone Jenner, who has a point in each of his last two contests, is slated to play his 300th NHL game Sunday.
2. Tampa Bay D Anton Stralman, who leads the league with a plus-24 rating, could return after missing the last two games with a lower-body injury.
3. The Lightning have won both matchups in 2017-18 after the Blue Jackets swept three games from Tampa Bay last season by a combined 13-5.
PREDICTION: Blue Jackets 4, Lightning 3