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The cross-conference opponents face off Saturday in Columbus for the first of two meetings on the year. The Blue Jackets will pay the Lightning a return visit on Jan. 24. Last season, Tampa Bay won the only matchup between the clubs by a 3-2 score in the shootout thanks to Ryan Malone’s game-deciding goal in the tiebreaker.
Lightning net minder Mathieu Garon is expected to start in goal on Saturday when he makes his first return to Columbus to face his former team with which he spent two seasons. Coming off a thrilling 5-4 win in overtime against Calgary on Thursday, he’ll try to help his team win two consecutive games for the first time since the days following Thanksgiving.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay opens up a three-game swing away from home on Saturday in Columbus, with each contest during the stretch coming against a Western Conference opponent. The Lightning bested their most recent cross-conference foe on Thursday at the St. Pete Times Forum when they earned a 5-4 win over Calgary in overtime. Steven Stamkos notched the game-winner 30 seconds into the extra session to snap a two-game skid and tie for the NHL lead in goals with his 19th of the season.
Tampa Bay also got three unanswered tallies from Tom Pyatt, Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson to take a 4-2 lead in the third period before surrendering the advantage, but fortunately for the Bolts, Stamkos was able to help his team collect both points on the night after finishing off an odd-man rush with Eric Brewer and Steve Downie. Mathieu Garon, appearing in his fifth consecutive game, stopped 23 of 27 shots on the night.
“We know in order to win we can't be blowing two-goal leads in the third period,” Stamkos said. “In the end, we stuck with it. We made sure we got the one point at least, and then it was nice getting the two points in the end.”
BLUE JACKETS – Columbus hosts the Bolts in the club’s final match of a five-game home stand. The Blue Jackets have dropped three of their past four and are looking for just their second win of the current stretch at Nationwide Arena after falling 2-1 to the Kings on Thursday night. Goaltender Curtis Sanford gave one of his better efforts on the year, making 39 saves, but received little help at the other end. Jeff Carter provided Columbus’ only goal for which Sanford to work with, converting on the power play at 3:17 of the second period. The Jackets net minder rode the one-goal lead into the third, but Los Angeles scored twice in the final 20 minutes to deny any Columbus any chance of collecting the win.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos notched his 19th goal of the season on Thursday against the Flames to tie for the NHL lead and brings three goals and two assists over his past two games into Saturday’s contest. His teammate, Dominic Moore, also is riding a four-game point streak with a goal and three helpers in that span. For the Blue Jackets, Jeff Carter is starting to heat up after a slow start, as the forward has netted a goal in each of his past four games.
LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve), Martin St. Louis (facial/nasal fractures, out indefinitely) and Matt Gilroy (lower body, day-to-day). BLUE JACKETS – Steve Mason (quad, day-to-day), Derek Dorsett (leg, day-to-day), Kristian Huselius (groin, out one month) and Radek Martinek (concussion, placed on Injured Reserve
“We’re looking for wins and we’re looking for points. We’ve felt we’ve been playing better, but sometimes it doesn’t show on the score sheet. It’s tough to show that.” – Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer, on the current status of his team
Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon spent two seasons in Columbus from 2009-2011, recording 22 wins in 71 games. Columbus forward Vinny Prospal appeared in 468 career games with the Lightning and ranks eighth on the team's all-time games played list.
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