Having earned a point in five of their past six games, the Tampa Bay Lightning are trying to close the gap in their pursuit of a second straight playoff berth.
Their upcoming schedule could help them make up even more ground.
The Lightning will open a season-high, seven-game homestand Saturday night against the last-place Carolina Hurricanes, who are in the middle of a road-heavy stretch.
Tampa Bay (31-29-7) is 11th in the Eastern Conference but very much within striking distance of the eighth and final playoff spot thanks to its 4-1-1 surge.
The Lightning, though, missed a chance to earn an extra point in their chase of a postseason berth in a 3-2 overtime defeat at Washington on Thursday night. Turnovers led to the tying goal with 3:58 remaining in regulation and Alex Ovechkin's game-winner.
"If you come in here and you get a point, it's not supposed to be disappointing," said coach Guy Boucher, who led his team within one win of the Stanley Cup finals last season. "But it's disappointing because it was just a dumb, dumb, dumb, dumb play, that last play."
Boucher's team will try to bounce back during its two-week stay at home, with five of the seven games coming against clubs not currently in playoff position. Only four East teams have more home wins than the Lightning, who are 20-10-2 in Tampa.
They had a five-game home winning streak snapped Tuesday with a 7-3 loss to Ottawa.
Dwayne Roloson gave up five goals after replacing an injured Mathieu Garon (lower body). Minor league call-up Dustin Tokarski made his first NHL start Thursday, stopping 29 shots despite dealing with dehydration and cramps.
Before joining the Lightning, Tokarski had won eight straight for the team's AHL affiliate in Norfolk, Va., while posting a 1.75 goals-against average. He received intravenous fluids following Thursday's game and could be back in net Saturday.
Tampa Bay is only four points ahead of Carolina for last place in the Southeast Division, but the Hurricanes (25-27-15) have earned at least one point in 19 of their last 23 games.
Eight of their next 10 come on the road. Carolina has a league-low eight road wins but is 3-1-5 in its last nine away from home.
"We believe we can battle every night and keep picking up points," coach Kirk Muller said. "We're scratching and clawing for every point."
One of Carolina's eight overtime or shootout defeats in the past six weeks came at home against Tampa Bay last Saturday, losing 4-3 as Teddy Purcell fed Steven Stamkos for the game-winner at 2:41 of the extra period. Stamkos and Purcell scored in regulation as the Lightning overcame a two-goal deficit.
Purcell is riding a career-best, 11-game point streak in which he's totaled seven goals and 15 assists. Stamkos has at least one point in six consecutive contests and has five of his league-leading 48 goals over that stretch.
The All-Star center has eight points this season against Carolina while helping Tampa Bay win three of five meetings. Stamkos recorded a hat trick during a 5-2 home win over the Hurricanes on Dec. 31, but the Lightning lost 5-2 in the last meeting at Tampa as Eric Staal, Tuomo Ruutu and Jiri Tlusty each recorded three points.
Staal had a 12-game point streak snapped during a 3-2 overtime loss to Buffalo on Wednesday, the second of a season-high five straight road games. Staal's run was the longest by a Hurricanes player since the team relocated to Carolina in 1997.
The Associated Press News Service
The Associated Press
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