TAMPA — These are important games for the Lightning. It hopes some home cooking can not only ignite an offense that has struggled at times this season but also a team that is trying to climb back up the standings.
Tampa Bay plays 14 of its next 21 games at Amalie Arena, including tonight's contest against the Canadiens, who are tied for second in the Atlantic Division with 43 points. Tonight is also the fourth game of a six-game homestand for the Lightning. Tampa Bay enters it with 39 points, five behind the Atlantic-leading Panthers and three out of the second wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
Tampa Bay came out of the Christmas break with a 5-2 win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday. Steven Stamkos has snapped out of a scoring slump in a big way. He has five goals in the past four games. Stamkos said the Christmas break energized him.
"It was huge for me personally," Stamkos said. "It was almost like a reset button. Go take a rest, come back, and it's a new season. We have to look at it that way. We can't dwell in the past. What's done is done. We have to move on and get better."
One player who has been getting better is forward Jonathan Marchessault, who is on a six-game point streak and is getting time on the top power-play unit with Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov.
When asked about trying to go after Patrick Kane's point streak of 26 games this season with the Blackhawks, Marchessault said, "I'm thinking about it. I'm trying to work hard every game and see what happens.
"I want to bring urgency to the lineup," he said. "I'm still trying to make my way into being a regular in the NHL."
The urgency has to come from scoring. Last season Tampa Bay led the league in goals. This season, though its goals-against average is down, the Lightning's scoring is down as well. Tampa Bay is averaging 2.5 goals per game. Though Coach Jon Cooper is happy about his team's defensive play, he wants to see the offensive numbers go up.
"We have to get away from the ones and the twos," Cooper said of his team's scoring. "I like the fact we've given up … two (goals Saturday), gave up two against Vancouver (on Tuesday). We've got to get back to that kind of play of getting three or more goals a game. It gives us a chance to win.
"Hopefully we can build on this. You start scoring a couple of goals, guys get their mojo flying, get confidence, and that's what happened (Saturday). It was a step in right direction for, sure."