Published May 02, 2016
(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to boost their division title chances with a fifth straight victory when they host the Nashville Predators in Thursday's battle at Amalie Arena.
The Bolts enter today's action one point behind the Montreal Canadiens for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Canadiens, who also lead the NHL with 100 points, are playing tonight in Winnipeg. Both teams have eight games left in the regular season.
Tampa is on its second four-game winning streak of the month and boasts an 8-1-1 record over its last 10 games. The club's longest stretch of consecutive wins this season is six set from Oct. 28-Nov. 9 and it hasn't won five straight since that run.
Nashville, meanwhile, is on a more modest two-game win streak at the moment. However, considering the Predators struggles in recent weeks, the brief run is an extremely positive sign.
Prior to picking up consecutive wins over Buffalo and Montreal in their last two trips to the ice, the Predators hadn't won two in a row since Feb. 22-24.
Nashville entered Saturday's game versus the Sabres with a 2-8-1 mark in its previous 11 tilts. It notched a 3-0 win over Buffalo and then closed a three- game homestand with Tuesday's overtime victory against the Canadiens.
The Preds are still in a tight race for the Central Division crown. They have 98 points, one less than St. Louis for the division lead and four more than Chicago.
Nashville trailed Montreal by a 2-1 count heading into the third period, but Ryan Ellis tied the game with 12:04 left in regulation and Filip Forsberg scored the winning goal 1:54 into OT.
Skating on the power play after P.K. Subban was called for tripping, Nashville worked the puck around the horn with Mike Ribeiro firing it from the right side to the left where Forsberg had a clear shot for the winner.
Mattias Ekholm also scored for the Predators, while Pekka Rinne stopped 27 shots in the win.
"It's a huge win for us, especially after being down after the second period and then winning the game," said Nashville defenseman Roman Josi.
Forsberg has 22 goals and 34 assists this season and his 56 points are two shy of Calgary's Johnny Gaudreau for the rookie lead.
James Neal sat out a fifth straight game with an upper-body injury and is questionable for tonight. Neal skated with the team yesterday for the first time since suffering the injury on March 12. He is second on Nashville with 22 goals this season.
Nashville is 17-14-6 as the road club this season and will complete a two-game swing when it visits Washington on Thursday.
The Lightning are capping a six-game homestand tonight after recording a 4-3 regulation win in Tuesday's clash with the Florida Panthers.
Ryan Callahan notched the deciding marker against the Panthers with 2:28 left in regulation as Tampa Bay tied a franchise record with its 46th win of the season. The Lightning also won 46 games in their Stanley Cup-winning campaign of 2003-04 as well as 2010-11 and last season
Brenden Morrow, Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov scored for the Lightning, winners of four straight and eight of 11 in March.
"Can't rely on one line or a couple guys," said Callahan. "You have to have everybody."
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 33-of-36 shots for the victory.
The Lightning are 30-7-1 as the host this season, blowing past their previous home wins record of 25.
Nashville has won five of its last six meetings against Tampa, but the Lightning have won three of the past four encounters at home. The Preds are just 2-4-0 with two ties in eight all-time trips to Central Florida.
Ben Bishop is expected to start tonight for the Bolts, while Rinne will likely go for Nashville. Rinne is 3-0 with a 2.93 goals against average in three career tilts against the Lightning. Bishop suffered a regulation loss in his only lifetime appearance in this series.