(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to post their first three-game winning streak since Steven Stamkos went down with an injury when they host the Pittsburgh Penguins in Friday's matinee in Central Florida.
The Lightning lost Stamkos for an indefinite period of time when he broke his right tibia on Nov. 11 in Boston. Tampa lost that game in Beantown and then went 4-3-1 over the next eight games without their star centerman.
Tampa won its first two tilts without Stamkos in the lineup before going on a four-game slide. The Lightning halted that 0-3-1 stretch with Monday's 5-0 shellacking of the visiting New York Rangers and continued the three-game homestand with a 4-2 victory over Philadelphia on Wednesday.
The Lightning are boasting a 10-2-0 record on home ice this season and will shoot for an eighth straight victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum today. Tampa hasn't lost a game as the host since dropping a 5-0 decision against Boston on Oct. 19.
On Wednesday, Victor Hedman scored twice and the Lightning almost coughed up a three-goal lead in the final two minutes of regulation, but topped Philadelphia, 4-2, to spoil Vincent Lecavalier's return to Tampa.
Lecavalier spent 14 seasons with the Lightning and the former No. 1 pick of the 1998 draft totaled team records of 1,037 games played and 383 goals, along with 491 assists and 874 points. He was honored by the hosts with a lengthy video tribute in the first period which drew a standing ovation.
With the Flyers down 3-0 heading into the final two minutes of the third period, Lecavalier scored on the power play to cut the deficit to two. Mark Streit tallied for Philly just 40 seconds later to make it a 3-2 game, but Tyler Johnson would seal with win for the Lightning with an empty-net marker with 34 seconds left.
Ondrej Palat also lit the lamp for the Lightning, while Anders Lindback stopped 19 shots to hold on for the win.
Hedman, meanwhile, notched the second two-goal performance of his career. The 22-year-old defenseman has 22 goals over 283 games.
"It's fun to contribute on both ends of the ice," Hedman said. "You can't get satisfied. You want to keep going and winning hockey games, that's what's most important."
While Tampa held on for the win its most recent outing, the Penguins rallied for a 6-5 shootout victory Wednesday against visiting Toronto. Evgeni Malkin's second goal of the night tied the game in the third period, then both he and Sidney Crosby scored in the shootout as Pittsburgh earned the comeback victory over the Maple Leafs at CONSOL Energy Center.
Pittsburgh trailed 4-1 early in the second period and 5-3 heading into the third before James Neal potted a power-play goal at 3:46 and Malkin followed just under four minutes later with his sixth of the season to tie the tilt.
Despite outshooting the Leafs 19-0 over the final 25 minutes, the Penguins were unable to push the go-ahead goal past Jonathan Bernier, forcing the game into a shootout.
After both shooters came up empty in the first round, Crosby skated in and got Bernier to commit early on a poke check before stuffing the disc into the net. Rookie Jeff Zatkoff, in his first NHL shootout, then stoned David Clarkson before Malkin ended the game with a quick wrister past Bernier's blocker side.
"I think we knew we had a lot of time left and fortunately we stuck with it," Crosby said of the comeback. "Give everyone credit for sticking with it because that first 25 minutes was as ugly as it gets I think."
Malkin added his 24th assist of the season, while Kris Letang registered a goal and two assists and Neal notched a goal and an assist for the Penguins, who had dropped two straight before rallying for Wednesday's victory.
Zatkoff stopped 11-of-13 shots in relief of starter Marc-Andre Fleury, who was pulled early in the second after giving up three goals on 11 shots.
After improving to 11-3-0 as the host on Wednesday, the Pens, who are just 5-6-1 as the guest, will open a three-game road trip today in Tampa.
Pittsburgh has won seven straight against the Lightning overall and the Pens have taken the past three meetings at the Forum.
Ben Bishop will get the start for Tampa on Friday. He is 0-1-0 with a lofty 6.04 goals against average in two career outings against the Pens. Fleury is 14-10-3 with a 2.48 GAA in 29 career games against the Lightning and he expects to get the call in net today.