Tampa Bay hosts surging Dallas in East-West dustup
Tampa Bay is far and away the best team, points-wise, in the NHL this season, but the Lightning will have their hands full when they host the Dallas Stars on Thursday in Tampa, Fla.
Both the Lightning (42-11-4, 88 points) and the Stars (29-22-5, 63 points) come into Thursday's match on the strength of decisive wins on Tuesday, and both have been among the hottest teams in the league over the past two months.
Tampa Bay downed Calgary with six different players scoring in a 6-3 victory for its third win in a row. More than half of the lineup registered at least one point, with 11 players listed on the scoresheet.
"We played with the puck, we shot it, and whatever rebounds, we worked to get it back," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "We worked. Big thing for us is when we're turning it over, it can cause problems, especially against this team with the firepower they have up front. But we managed it well."
Tampa Bay played fast, physical and with plenty of confidence, constantly denied potential chances for the Flames. The Lightning limited Calgary to only 22 shots, tied for the second-lowest shot total for a Tampa Bay opponent this season.
"We want to make sure we play well defensively before thinking about offense," said Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov, who racked up a goal and three assists against Calgary to extend his NHL-leading point total to 88. "If you do that, you're going to have success."
Dallas heads to Tampa Bay after a 3-0 win at Florida, finding its first victory in its third outing of a five-game road trip.
Tyler Seguin continued the torrid pace he's been on since the calendar turned to 2019, scoring two goals and assisting on the third, scored by Esa Lindell. Seguin now has nine points (six goals, three assists) in his past six games, all since the All-Star break, and 20 (13 goals, seven assists) in the new year.
"Over the break, I took some time to, I don't want to say reset, but it was a good break," Seguin said. "It was refreshing for me. Coming out of it, I felt a little boost of energy and personally was feeling good. I'm just glad the puck is going in."
Backup goaltender Anton Khudobin stopped 30 shots in the victory, earning his second shutout of the season.
The Stars have won six of eight overall, collecting 13 of a possible 16 points in that span. They had lost their previous two contests, on the road at Nashville and in Arizona by scores of 3-2, with the setback to the Predators coming in overtime.
"I liked how everybody battled so hard," Stars coach Jim Montgomery told NHL.com after the win over Florida. "Just really proud because of the positive talk on the bench. It was a really good group effort. It's not pretty, but it's the way we play. Obviously, 1/8Khudobin 3/8 was excellent."
Khudobin has filled in admirably for front-line netminder Ben Bishop, who has missed the past three games with an upper-body injury. Bishop is listed as day-to-day but could be back between the pipes for Thursday's game.
The Stars and Lightning played on Jan. 15 in Dallas, with Tampa Bay winning 2-0.
--Field Level Media
Updated February 13, 2019