While the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to improve on one of the franchise’s top winning streaks, the Chicago Blackhawks are just trying to win consecutive games.
The Lightning have done it with elite goal scoring, which could be put to the test Tuesday night in Chicago against what has been the top defensive team in hockey.
Atlantic Division-leading Tampa Bay (11-3-1) is seeking its first seven-game winning streak since winning a franchise-best eight straight Feb. 23-March 6, 2004, on its way to its only Stanley Cup.
Prior to Sunday’s 4-3 shootout win in Detroit, the Lightning had scored at least four goals in each game on the streak, and their 3.80 goals per game trails only Pittsburgh.
“That was as close to a 60-minute game as we’ve played,” said coach Jon Cooper, despite his team blowing a 3-1 lead. “I think we dictated the play most of the game.”
Tyler Johnson scored for the fourth time in three games and has 17 points in his last 12, while Ryan Callahan added two assists to give him five points in the past two.
Steven Stamkos scored twice heading into a matchup with a Chicago team he’s torched for nine goals and five assists in seven career games.
The Lightning have won five straight over the Blackhawks (8-6-1), including a pair of overtime victories a season ago.
Chicago hasn’t won consecutive games since Oct. 18-21, going 4-6-0 since. The inconsistency has come despite posting an NHL-low 1.87 goals against per game. Offensively, the Blackhawks have yet to score more than two goals in consecutive games.
It’s not for a lack of opportunities as they’ve averaged a league-high 38.0 shots. They just often haven’t been quality chances considering their 6.8 percent shooting mark, which is among the worst in the NHL.
Things have been looking up in their last three with a pair of victories and 12 goals scored after Sunday’s 5-2 home win over San Jose. Still, they allowed the Sharks to trim a three-goal lead to one early in the second period before rebounding in the third with two goals to put the game away.
“You can see where the confidence in tight games and playing the right way and doing the right things is a work in progress right now,” coach Joel Quenneville told the team’s official website. “I think (there was) probably a little hesitation on our part, knowing we’ve lost some tough games that we traditionally win.”
Jonathan Toews scored an empty-netter and also had an assist, giving him five points in three games. The Chicago captain has six goals and five assists in eight games against the Lightning, while Patrick Kane has five goals and 10 assists in the same span.
Consistent with Tampa Bay’s scoring and Chicago’s defending, the matchup also features one of the league’s top power plays (26.4 percent) against the Blackhawks’ top-ranked penalty kill (91.1).
The Lightning’s kill has gone 8 for 15 in four games this month as the Blackhawks’ power play is 4 for 23 in seven games.
Both teams have received solid goaltending from their No. 1s. Ben Bishop is 9-1-1 with a 2.44 goals-against average, while Corey Crawford is 5-3-1 with a 1.75 GAA. In three games against Chicago, though, Bishop is 2-1-0 with a 4.16 GAA. In three against Tampa Bay, Crawford is 0-1-2 with a 1.90 GAA.
Chicago center Brad Richards, who was a part of the 2003-04 Cup-winning Lightning, has 13 points in as many games against his former team.