It has been a miserable trip north of the border for the Tampa Bay Lightning thus far, and the Winnipeg Jets are ready to take away the welcome mat from outside the MTS Centre.
The Lightning try to salvage the finale of their three-game road swing Sunday night against a Jets team thrilled to see someone in their building other than the Washington Capitals.
Slow starts doomed the Lightning (13-17-1) in Ontario their past two games, falling behind 4-0 in losses at both Toronto and Ottawa. While Tampa Bay's deficit didn't hit four goals until the second period Wednesday, the Senators netted their four in a 7:11 span of the first period and eventually dealt the Lightning a 5-3 loss Saturday.
Tampa Bay did show some life unlike Wednesday, drawing within one goal with 1:59 to play after Teddy Purcell scored, but conceded an empty-net goal in the final minute in losing for the 10th time in 14 games.
"The rest of the game we played good. We outplayed the other team, outchanced them," coach Guy Boucher said. "We did a lot of good things out there, but the mental mistakes cost us. We played 50 great minutes, and that's how we have to play. We can't allow those mental mistakes to happen."
Though Cedrick Desjardins took the loss by allowing Daniel Alfredsson's goal in the final seconds of the first period - the only one he yielded in 20 shots - he likely will get the start after Mathieu Garon stopped 8 of 11 shots prior to being pulled.
Rookie Tyler Johnson scored Tampa Bay's other two goals in the third period, but getting offense early may be key. The Lightning are 1-8-0 when allowing the first goal on the road compared to 4-2-0 in games they grab a 1-0 lead as the visitor.
Winnipeg (16-14-2) is still atop the Southeast, but did itself no favors in losing consecutive home games to Washington. The Jets lost 4-0 on Thursday before being overrun by the Capitals 6-1 the following night as Ondrej Pavelec was yanked after giving up three goals on nine shots in barely over a period.
Despite the lost opportunity to create some space at the top of the division, coach Claude Noel is confident his team will bounce back.
"I still like our team and we're still at the top of our division, we're still a team that I believe will make the playoffs and that's where we're going, Noel said. "The world is not going to end tomorrow, I don't think."
Andrew Ladd, Blake Wheeler and Evander Kane, who have combined for 40 of Winnipeg's 80 goals, have been held to a combined three goals and three assists the last four games. All three goals came in its 3-1 win over Boston on Tuesday.
Al Montoya, who had 15 saves in relief of Pavelec on Friday, likely will get the start. He turned aside 28 shots in a 2-1 victory at Tampa Bay on March 7 and also had to relieve Pavelec in the first game between the teams Feb. 1, when the Lightning rolled to an 8-3 home win.
The Jets went 2-0-1 at home versus the Lightning last season.
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