The Lightning is facing their first must-win game of the season as they head toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Last night, the Lightning could have locked up third place in the Atlantic Division but instead dropped a 5-2 decision to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Meanwhile, the Boston Bruins beat the Buffalo Sabres 5-0 to move to within one point of the Lightning in the division.
The Lightning will play at the New York Islanders tonight on the road, while the Bruins will play at Toronto. The Maple Leafs will rest Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner, and Jack Campbell.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will be between the pipes tonight in New York, as Brian Elliot played in the loss on Thursday.
Should the Lightning lose and the Bruins win, the Lightning would fall into the wildcard round and be matched up against the Carolina Hurricanes in the first round, while the Bruins would face Toronto.
If the Lightning wins tonight, it doesn’t matter what the Bruins do. The Lightning will finish in third place and play Toronto in the first round.
Nikita Kucherov and Cory Perry tallied goals for the Lightning in the 5-2 loss in Columbus.
In every game, there is a new record being broken or tied, and last night’s game was no exception despite the loss.
With his 25th goal of the season, Kucherov has scored a goal in eight consecutive games for the Lightning, tying the franchise record held by Brian Bradley.
Steven Stamkos added two assists and has now recorded two plus points in eight straight games tying Vincent Lecavalier’s record for the longest stretch of consecutive multi-point games in franchise history.
The 5-2 loss in Columbus snapped a four-game Lightning win streak. Jon Cooper was disappointed in the loss and blamed it on a lack of effort.
Cooper said he is confident he will see a better effort Friday against the New York Islanders. “We have a veteran group here. I’ve got to lay this on a lot of the guys in the room in the leadership group to rally this group for tomorrow, but listen, I look at this team and what they’ve given us all year, and it’s been exceptional.”
Pat Maroon echoed Cooper’s comments saying the team didn’t play well. “We just didn’t play good tonight. There was no momentum shift at all. We’ve got to be better. Be engaged, be focused, and be ready. As an individual going into the playoffs, you want to feel good about yourself. You want to feel like you’re doing the right things and playing the right way.”
Before the Thursday night loss, the Lightning had won seven of their previous nine and played their best hockey of the season.
It will all come down to one game on Long Island to see if the Lightning can hang on to third place in the division.
The Lightning would like to be in a spot that Toronto is in, where you could rest some of your star players and ensure they are 100 percent ready for the playoffs next week.
If the Lightning can get out to a two-three goal lead, I would look for Cooper to rest some guys like Stamkos, Hedman, and Kucherov.
I think this team will respond well tonight and play a solid game against the Islanders, securing a first-round matchup with Toronto.