TV: FOX Sports Sun
TIME: Pregame coverage begins at 4:30 p.m.
TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning suddenly sit in a precarious position heading in to Sunday’s game against the Edmonton Oilers.
The Lightning hold just a two-point lead over the Boston Bruins for the top spot in the Eastern Conference after dropping consecutive games following a 9-0-1 stretch. The three goals allowed by Tampa Bay against Boston on Saturday marked the ninth time in the past 11 games the Lightning have allowed three or more goals.
The penalty kill has been a big culprit in that area as opponents have recorded at least one power play goal against Tampa Bay in 11 of the past 12 games. The Lightning have allowed five power play goals in the past three games.
Tampa Bay Lightning on FOX Sports Sun
“We’re happy where we are but not necessarily happy with our game,” Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman said. “Now is the time when you really have to look yourself in the mirror and really push yourself and hammer down on the details. We have to step up, we have to work.”
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said despite the recent run of success in the standings, there’s been negativity running rampant through the team.
“That’s the bizarre thing. You go (9-0-1) and we’re getting asked about our defensive play, we’re shown clips about our defensive play, we’re harping on each other about our defensive play,” he said. “I don’t know if that’s a sign of a team that’s hungry to get better but when you go (9-0-1) in this league you should have some confidence and be feeling good about your game.”
The Oilers, who came within a victory of reaching the Western Conference finals last season, have been out of the playoff chase for some time. But Edmonton has won four of the past six including the last three victories against teams contending for the playoffs, including a third-period comeback victory at Florida on Saturday.
“We’re all really disappointed with where we are in the season, but we’re not going to roll over and play dead,” Edmonton head coach Todd McLellan told NHL.com. “We plan on playing hard and trying to get better, moving the needle in the right direction. I think we’ve done that. We haven’t won all the time, but we have done that on most nights.”
The biggest race for Edmonton now is for Connor McDavid, who enters the game just one point behind Tampa Bay’s Nikita Kucherov for the Art Ross Trophy as the league’s leading scorer. McDavid has 34 goals and 55 assists after getting a goal and two goals on Saturday while Kucherov has 34 goals and 57 assists.
McDavid has six goals and 14 points in his last eight games while Kucherov has a goal and nine points in his last five contests.
“We’re just trying to focus on ourselves right now,” McDavid told NHL.com. “It seems like every team we play is in a desperate playoff position and we’re trying to get up for those games just like we know other teams are. We’ve got to understand their intensity and match it.”