TAMPA — The Lightning is more than halfway through a five-game homestand it deemed crucial toward a playoff-spot run, and so far, well, so good.
Saturday's win against Carolina gave the Lighting five points through the first three games. The Lightning is two points behind Nos. 2 and 3 Ottawa and Boston in the Atlantic Division and entered Sunday two points back of Philadelphia for the second wild card spot.
"It's a good step in the right direction," wing Alex Killorn said. "You want to get incrementally better in the standings."
Add home wins against Detroit and St. Louis before a quick trip to Washington just before Christmas and the Lightning has recorded nine points in its past five home games. It is an important stretch, coach Jon Cooper said, because waiting for the Lightning this month is a six-game, 13-day trip that crisscrosses the country, beginning Jan. 16 in Los Angeles and ending Jan. 26 in Sunrise, with stops between in Anaheim, San Jose, Arizona and Chicago.
But the Lightning is used to that kind of grind after spending a good deal of October and November on the road.
"We were so road heavy, we kind of grinded through that," Cooper said. "We have to grind through now the end of January. In between that we have seven of eight at home, and we have to (get points) at home. We're not done yet, and if we want to get back in this race, we have to do that and we are."
Killorn said it was important to gain points on this homestand against Toronto and Carolina, both below the Lightning in the standings. "We want to keep them behind us," he said.
He also said it was important to beat Montreal in the game that began the homestand because they Lightning is trying to catch the division-leading Canadiens (eight points ahead). But it was the way the Lightning won that game that could be the key to the season, Killorn said.
Trailing 2-0 in the first period, the Lightning forced overtime with a third-period comeback that produced an overtime win. Killorn said the win could prove to be a big shift in momentum: "Hopefully, that Montreal game was the turning point."
NOTES: Forward Adam Erne was recalled from AHL Syracuse. That means the lower-body injury to forward Brian Boyle might keep him out of Tuesday's game against the Jets. … The Lightning practices at 11 a.m. today at the Ice Sports Forum in Brandon. The practice is open to the public.