(SportsNetwork.com) - The Tampa Bay Lightning's current hot streak began with a home win over the Pittsburgh Penguins. The Bolts hope to win a fifth straight game when they visit the Penguins for Friday's rematch at Consol Energy Center.
Tampa recorded a 4-3 regulation win over the Pens on Dec. 23, as Tyler Johnson posted a hat trick to fuel the Lightning offense. That win halted Tampa's 10- game losing streak in the series, giving the Bolts their first victory over Pittsburgh since Nov. 17, 2011.
The Lightning have a chance to end another lengthy skid against the Pens, who have won the last eight meetings in the Steel City. Tampa is 0-7-1 all-time at Consol Energy Center and last beat Pittsburgh on the road at the now demolished Igloo on March 31, 2010.
Tampa has posted victories against Carolina, Toronto and Buffalo since downing the Penguins. The Lightning, who will try to win five straight tonight for the first time since a six-game tear from Oct. 28-Nov. 9, is coming off Wednesday's 5-1 rout of the Sabres
Ondrej Palat posted a goal and three assists to lead the Lightning in the New Year's Eve rout of the Sabres.
Nikita Kucherov had two goals and an assist, while Matthew Carle and Brett Connolly also scored for the Lightning.
"Our goals against have been going down and when it comes down to March and April, you really need to have your defensive play down," said Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper.
Andrei Vasilevskiy needed to make just 10 saves to secure the win.
No. 1 netminder Ben Bishop is expected to start tonight after not suiting up for Wednesday's game. Tampa said Bishop's absence was not injury related, although he did miss four games recently with a lower-body issue.
Bishop is 0-2-0 with a 4.26 goals against average in his career against the Penguins. He last faced them on Dec. 15 when he had to leave the game with an injury after stopping 4-of-5 shots. Vasilevskiy earned the win over Pittsburgh on Dec. 23, but was sent down to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Thursday.
Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas is questionable for tonight after sitting out Wednesday with an undisclosed injury.
Tampa's 15-4-1 home record is a big reason the club is sitting two points ahead of Montreal for first place in the Atlantic Division. The Bolts are just 9-7-3 as the visiting team, but hope to pick up a second straight away win tonight in the second stop on a four-game road trip.
Pittsburgh was able to halt its longest losing streak of the season on New Year's Eve, as it downed the visiting Carolina Hurricanes by a 2-1 score.
The Penguins had lost four straight and three in a row in regulation before beating the Hurricanes with a late goal on Wednesday. Brandon Sutter snapped a 1-1 tie with 1:42 left in regulation. He took a bouncing feed from Beau Bennett and wristed the puck past Cam Ward from the slot. The shot tipped off a Carolina player before finding the back of the net.
"We stuck with it all night and any time you get a late goal like that it's always a big boost," said Sutter. "Our defense was solid all night and the goaltending was great. All in all a great game."
Chris Kunitz had the other goal for the Penguins, while Marc-Andre Fleury stopped 24 shots in the win.
Pittsburgh, which is tied with the New York Islanders for first place in the Metropolitan Division, improved to 14-5-1 as the home club. The Pens are playing the second test of a four-game homestand tonight and will continue the residency tomorrow against Montreal.
With the Pens playing on back-to-back nights, backup Thomas Greiss could get a start over the next two days. Greiss, who battled a case of the mumps recently, hasn't started since seen action since Dec. 13, but he was well enough to suit up as the backup on Wednesday.
Greiss has never faced the Lightning, while Fleury is 16-10-3 with a 2.45 GAA for his career in this matchup.
Pittsburgh could get a couple of players back from injury or illness tonight. Forward Steve Downie practiced with the team for the second straight day on Thursday after missing six games with the mumps. He is questionable for tonight, as is defenseman Paul Martin, who has sat out the last six tests with an undisclosed injury. Martin returned to practice on Tuesday, but he will need to be activated off injured reserve to play tonight.