Two of the NHL’s best teams meet for the second time in less than a week when the Pittsburgh Penguins and Tampa Bay Lightning face off Tuesday in Pittsburgh.
The Lightning won 4-2 at home Thursday in a game the Penguins chased all night and didn’t feel great about.
Since then, Pittsburgh beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Saturday to end a 2-1-0 road trip and win for the ninth time in 12 games. Tampa Bay downed the visiting New York Islanders 3-1 on Saturday, then won 2-1 in overtime on Monday at the Columbus Blue Jackets for a seven-game winning streak and a nine-game point streak.
Pittsburgh also made a big move in the interim, swinging a trade Monday with the Minnesota Wild. The Penguins acquired forward Jason Zucker in exchange for struggling winger Alex Galchenyuk, a conditional 2020 first-round draft pick and a minor league defenseman.
Zucker is likely to play Tuesday. That will alter the Penguins lineup, and they are looking for another change — a different outcome from the Thursday meeting with Tampa Bay.
“Right now we’re trying to build our game and make sure we’re playing well going into the playoffs and battling hard,” Penguins defenseman Kris Letang said. “To have to face a team we just lost to again, it’s good. It’s a good challenge. They’re a team that’s been playing really well. It’s good to having them back quick.”
Pittsburgh not only wants some payback, but it also wants to show it can play its preferred level and style against a fellow top club.
“Especially after a game like that — it was pretty intense, kind of a playoff-style game against a good team who’s very opportunistic,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said of the Thursday contest. “I feel like we didn’t have a great start. We want to make sure we start better and get a better result.”
Pittsburgh will be without precocious rookie defenseman John Marino, who had surgery Monday to repair broken bones after he took a puck to the left side of his face in the Thursday game.
Both teams are in the top five in the league.
Pittsburgh is 13-2-0 at home against the Lightning dating to Nov. 12, 2010.
The Lightning not only will be playing on back-to-back nights, but they also could be coming off some extra emotion Monday in their first game against the Blue Jackets since Columbus pulled off an upset by jettisoning Tampa Bay in the first round of the playoffs last spring.
Lightning center Brayden Point cautioned against letting distractions creep in.
“These are still important games,” he said. “We’re playing for points still, so we have to keep an even keel (on) this road trip.”
The Lightning played Monday without captain Steven Stamkos, who had a lower-body injury.
“This isn’t long-term, so he has the potential to play (Tuesday),” coach Jon Cooper said of Stamkos.
Tampa Bay sniper Nikita Kucherov scored both goals against Columbus, giving him 10 goals and 10 assists in an 11-game point streak.
Kucherov leads the Lightning with 69 points; Stamkos has 59.
After Tampa Bay backup goaltender Curtis McElhinney played Monday at Columbus, it seems likely that Andrei Vasilevskiy will face the Penguins. Vasilevskiy has an 18-game point streak (16-0-2), including the Thursday win against Pittsburgh.
–Field Level Media