(AP) — The Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t spent much time on the road lately, but they haven’t forgotten how to win the close ones on their opponents’ home ice.
The Southeast Division-leading Lightning look to win four in a row on the road for the first time in just over three years Wednesday night when the New Jersey Devils try to win a season-best five straight at home.
Coming off a 2-1 victory over New Jersey (27-31-4) on Friday that snapped the Devils’ season-high eight-game winning steak and capped a league record-tying 12-game homestand, Tampa Bay (37-18-7) began a three-game trip Sunday with a 2-1 win against the New York Rangers.
Coach Guy Boucher said it was “the ugliest win of the year,” but captain Vincent Lecavalier’s 5-on-3 power-play goal broke a third-period tie to help the Lightning improve to a league-best 21-3-7 in one-goal games.
Tampa Bay’s previous two road games Jan. 20-21 were decided in a shootout. Its last four-game road winning streak was a 6-0-0 stretch Jan. 8-Feb. 7, 2008.
“At the beginning of the year we were great at closing out close games,” Boucher told his team’s official website. “That’s what games in the playoffs are going to be like, and that’s what we want.”
While the Lightning try to build momentum toward what will likely be their first playoff berth since 2007, the Devils still have plenty of work ahead of them if they’re going to extend their postseason run to 14 years.
New Jersey, 13th in the Eastern Conference, got off to an awful start but has won 17 of 21.
“The guys were not playing together (earlier this season),” coach Jacques Lemaire said following Sunday’s 2-1 win at Florida. “Now they feel better about each other and they’re helping each other on the ice.”
The return of Martin Brodeur could give New Jersey another lift as it tries to win five straight at home for the first time since Feb. 12-March 17, 2010.
Brodeur made 25 saves Sunday in his first action since suffering a knee injury Feb. 6. Johan Hedberg, who made 28 saves Friday, had a 1.11 goals-against average while starting the previous eight games.
“The guys played really well in front of me and that’s nice when you haven’t played in a long time,” Brodeur said.
Brodeur made 33 saves in a 6-3 home win over Tampa Bay on Jan. 9 and turned away 30 shots five days later in a 5-2 road victory versus the Lightning. He is 9-1-0 with a 2.24 GAA in his last 10 starts in this matchup.
If Brodeur is in net, he’ll have to find a way to slow down Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis.
Lecavalier has seven goals – six on the power play – and 12 points in the last nine games, while St. Louis has four goals and nine assists during a nine-game point streak.
Tampa Bay’s Dwayne Roloson, who has a 1.67 GAA in helping the Lightning win their last three overall, made 34 saves in his last start in New Jersey – a 5-1 win for the New York Islanders on Dec. 23.
Center Dave Steckel could make his Devils debut after he was acquired from Washington on Monday for Jason Arnott. Steckel has 11 points and leads the NHL in faceoff win percentage at 63.7.
New Jersey, winner of eight of nine at home, has lost once in Tampa Bay’s last seven visits.
Updated March 1, 2011
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