After losing for the second time on their four-game road trip through the southern part of the Eastern Conference, the Minnesota Wild will try to improve even-strength play and hopefully get a little puck luck when they visit the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
Following Thursday night’s 5-2 loss at the Carolina Hurricanes, coach Dean Evason’s Wild fell 5-3 to the Florida Panthers on Saturday, setting up a showdown with the Lightning, who are coming off a 3-2-0 road trip across the Western Conference.
The setback against Florida happened despite the cards being stacked in Minnesota’s favor.
Without goaltenders Sergei Bobrovsky and Spencer Knight, the Panthers turned to the AHL tandem of Alex Lyon and Mack Guzda. The Atlantic Division club also lost defensemen Aaron Ekblad and Gustav Forsling early in the game, although Forsling returned, and top-six center Sam Bennett left the game with an injury.
Still, Minnesota could not manage enough offense to defeat Lyon, who made 29 saves in only his 26th NHL game and did not allow a goal at even strength. The visitors went 2-for-2 on the power play and added their third with 90 seconds left to play trailing by two and with goalie Filip Gustavsson off for the extra skater.
“Obviously we didn’t get the results, and we didn’t score enough,” Evason said. “Five-on-five here tonight we didn’t find a way to score. … If you’re not scoring, you’ve got to continually work at keeping it out of our net, and we didn’t here tonight.”
Rookie defenseman Calen Addison was at a loss to figure out an answer for the defeat to the short-handed Panthers.
“I don’t think some of the bounces went our way,” Addison said. “That’s hockey. I think we’ve just got to tighten up. Less turnovers. Maybe less penalties. I don’t know. There’s no real answer.”
With a 17-4-1 record on home ice, the Lightning have a good chance at breaking their own two-game losing spell and get some payback for their 5-1 road loss to the Wild on Jan. 4.
Over the past eight matchups against the Central Division team, they are 1-6-1.
Tampa Bay’s five-game road trip through the West started well with wins in St. Louis, Seattle and Vancouver, but two stops at Edmonton and Calgary led to losses that ended the trip on a down note despite the winning record.
After holding a 13-5 scoring margin in the three victories, the Lightning were outscored a combined 11-6 by the Oilers and Flames and lost bottom-six left winger Pat Maroon (upper body) in the trip’s finale at Calgary.
“If we can win five, lose two, win five, lose two, I’ll take that all day,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “That’ll get us home ice (in the playoffs). It’s just frustrating.
“We’ll take it. We went above .500 on the trip. Now it puts a little more stress on us at home to do a little bit better than that.”
Across a three-game homestand that will finish play before the All-Star break, Tampa Bay will host three clubs — Minnesota, the Boston Bruins and the Los Angeles Kings — that currently hold playoffs spots.
“We’ve got three tough teams coming in now before we get a break,” Cooper said.
–Field Level Media