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Isles Square Off Against Streaking Lightning

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

(Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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(AP) — Steven Stamkos is on a tear, just like his Tampa Bay Lightning teammates. The NHL-worst New York Islanders seem unlikely to slow them down.

Stamkos will try to lead the Lightning to a season high-tying fifth straight victory Wednesday night against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum.

The third-year center appears capable of surpassing his total of 51 goals last season. He has five in his last five games, giving him 26 to pull within one of red-hot Sidney Crosby for most in the league.

Stamkos scored his 100th career goal Monday in a 5-1 victory over Carolina, making him the sixth player in league history to reach 100 goals before his 21st birthday. The others are Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows, Dale Hawerchuk and Ilya Kovalchuk.

“It’s obviously nice to have that accomplishment,” Stamkos told the team’s official website. “It wasn’t really anything that was brought up or that I came into the game thinking about. As a team, we’re on a good streak right now and I was just happy to chip in.”

The Islanders held Stamkos without a goal the first five times they faced him, but he has five goals and five assists in the past five matchups. He scored once and added an assist in Tampa Bay’s 4-2 road victory over New York on Nov. 17.

Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists Monday as the Lightning (19-10-4) won their fourth straight and moved to 11-3-2 in the last 16 games.

“We’re rolling right now,” said St. Louis, who has two straight three-point games. “We’re going good, but even keel. We can’t get too high. Just keep going about our business.”

A dominant home team this season, the Lightning have gone 5-7-2 in their last 14 road contests. They had lost five of six at Nassau Coliseum before last month’s win there.

With Mike Smith sidelined approximately two weeks after hurting his left knee during practice Monday, Dan Ellis will carry the goaltending load. Ellis had allowed three goals or more in seven consecutive starts before making 21 saves Monday.

The Islanders (6-18-6) were poised to win back-to-back games for the first time in nearly two months Saturday, but Phoenix scored with 1:28 left in regulation and won 4-3 in a shootout. The loss left New York with a 2-17-4 mark in its last 23 games.

Nathan Lawson had a strong performance in his NHL debut, stopping 32 shots through overtime. Lawson was recalled from the AHL earlier Saturday with Rick DiPietro scratched due to swelling in his surgically repaired right knee.

“I felt really good out there,” Lawson said. “I wasn’t nervous at all. It was a great game until the last minute-and-a-half.”

Lawson seems likely to be back in net against Tampa Bay after DiPietro was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. DiPietro is eligible to return after seven days.

Joining him was defenseman Mike Mottau, who will miss the rest of the season after surgery on his right hip. He’d been out the past 10 games because of an eye injury, was cleared for physical activity last week, then suffered a torn labrum.

Although they’ve scored six goals in the last two games, lack of offense continues to plague the Islanders. They are second-to-last in the league with 2.17 goals per game and also rank near the bottom in power-play percentage at 14.7.

John Tavares has gone nine games without a goal, managing only two in his last 21.

Left wing Matt Martin will miss this contest after being suspended two games for a blind-side check to the head of Phoenix’s Vernon Fiddler on Dec. 13.

Updated December 21, 2010
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pixy Isles Square Off Against Streaking Lightning