Lightning face another test in Blues

( - The Tampa Bay Lightning face a second straight test against one of the Western Conference's best clubs, as they host the St. Louis Blues in Thursday's clash at Amalie Arena.

On Tuesday, the Lightning visited the Nashville Predators -- the leading point-getter in the NHL this season -- and dropped a 3-2 overtime decision after James Neal scored the game-winning goal for the Preds with 33 seconds left in the extra session.

It was a well-earned point for the Bolts, however, as they rallied from a 2-0 deficit in the third period to force OT. Brett Connolly scored 80 seconds into the third stanza to cut the deficit to one and Nikita Kucherov knotted the score at the 7:50 mark.

The Lightning eventually lost for the second time in three games when Neal beat Andrei Vasilevskiy between the pads with a wrister. Vasilevskiy gave up three goals on 29 shots in the setback.

"It's nice that we came back, but we have to start believing that we're one of the better teams in the league and not be satisfied with just one point," said Tampa captain Steven Stamkos.

Tampa Bay enters Tuesday leading the Atlantic Division with 74 points, one more than Montreal and three in front of third-place Detroit.

St. Louis is tied with the Lightning in the overall NHL standings, but is sitting second in the Central Division. The Blues are four points behind the first-place Predators.

The Blues halted a two-game losing streak with Tuesday's 2-1 home victory over Arizona. It was the 692nd career victory for head coach Ken Hitchcock, tying him with Dick Irvin Sr. for fourth on the NHL's all-time regular-season win list.

Alexander Steen and Dmitrij Jaskin scored in the win, while Jake Allen made 25 saves for the Blues, who boast a 13-2-1 mark over the past 16 contests.

"I thought we had a lot of guys that really played hard and played the right way, and even saying that, we got a heck of a push at the end," said Hitchcock.

Brian Elliott is expected to start tonight for the Blues. He is 4-2-1 with a 1.82 goals against average in seven career outings against Tampa.

Ben Bishop will likely get the call in net for the Lightning and is 1-1-1 with a 2.34 GAA versus the Blues.

St. Louis has won two straight and four of the past five meetings against the Bolts overall, but Tampa has claimed two of the last three encounters in Central Florida.

After tonight, Tampa Bay will head out on a five-game road trip, which begins with Sunday's test in San Jose. The Lightning own a 22-5-1 record on home ice this season compared to a middling 12-11-5 mark as the guest.