Jets tangle with Lightning hoping to better playoff chances

The Winnipeg Jets hope to make up some ground in the race for the Southeast Division title when they host the Tampa Bay Lightning in Tuesday's battle at MTS Centre.

The Jets enter Tuesday with 44 points, placing them four behind Washington for the division title. The Capitals, who are going for their eighth straight win Tuesday night against Toronto, have six games left in the regular season just like Winnipeg.

Washington was able to move past the Jets for the top spot thanks in part to Winnipeg's 0-5-0 slide from March 28-April 4, but Claude Noel's club has won its last three games, including a 7-2 rout of the Florida Panthers on Thursday.

Evander Kane scored a pair of goals, while Dustin Byfuglien and Andrew Ladd added one goal and one assist apiece to help the Jets cruise past the Panthers. The victory improved Winnipeg's record on its six-game homestand to 3-0 and the Jets are now 11-9-0 at MTS Centre this season.

Aaron Gagnon, Chris Thorburn and Grant Clitsome each added one goal and Bryan Little finished with two assists for the Jets, who are also two points in back of the New York Rangers for the eighth and final playoff seed in the East.

Ondrej Pavelec stopped 25-of-27 shots for Winnipeg, which led by a slim 3-2 margin before pouring the offense with four unanswered goals over the final two periods.

"It was back and forth - it's not ideally what you'd like but there's an opponent too you know - we wanted to get things back on track," Noel said. "I thought we did a great job straightening it out."

The Jets will try win the season series against Tampa Bay on Tuesday. The Lightning recorded an 8-3 home victory when the clubs opened the season series on Feb. 1, but Winnipeg has won the last two meetings to give the club five victories over the last eight encounters. Tampa is 1-3-0 on the road in this series since the Jets relocated from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season.

Winnipeg will close its homestand with games against Carolina and the New York Islanders.

The Lightning are nine points out of a playoff spot with just six games remaining on their schedule, meaning the Bolts are likely to miss the postseason for the fifth time in six years.

Tampa Bay has not done well in the spoiler role, however, losing three straight and five of its last six outings. The Lightning were last in action on Sunday, when they dropped a 3-1 road decision to the Buffalo Sabres.

Benoit Pouliot netted the lone Tampa Bay tally, while Mathieu Garon gave up all three goals on 22 shots for the Lightning.

"We've hit that point where we're out of the playoff chase, so I think reality at some point sinks in," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "They're only human. They know that we have a few games left and we have no chance for the playoffs, so I think mentally, they're human in there. They know what's going on."

The Lightning lost their fourth straight road game and are 6-14-1 as the guest this season. Tampa Bay is playing the third portion of a four-game road trip tonight and will cap the trek Thursday in Montreal.