Lightning (27-27-6, 60 Points) at Penguins (34-21-5, 73 Points)
Last 10: Tampa Bay (5-4-1); Pittsburgh (5-4-1)
Steven Stamkos enters the matchup tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin for the league lead in points at 73
Stamkos has six goals over his last four games and 10 goals over his last 10 games.
Marty St. Louis has three goals in his last four games
Ryan Malone's assist in Winnipeg gives him three assists over the past four games
Lightning D Victor Hedman has played at least 25:00 in eight straight games
Teddy Purcell enters Saturday with 13 points (3G, 10A) over his last nine games and is currently ridiing a four-game assist streak with five assists over that span.
The Penguins are 3 for 9 on the power play in the last two meetings with Tampa Bay
This is the fourth and final installment of the regular season between the clubs. With Pittsburgh having taken all but one of the first three matchups, the Lightning look to earn a victory to even up the season series at two games apiece in Saturday’s afternoon finale.
The Big Story:
Following a 4-3 setback at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, the Lightning now find themselves six points back of the eighth and final playoff spot, with hopes of getting back on the winning track to re-establish itself in the Eastern Conference playoff picture. Working in the Bolts’ favor is forward Steven Stamkos, who enters the contest tied for the league lead in points with the player he’ll be competing across the bench from come Saturday, Penguins center Evgeni Malkin.
LIGHTNING – The Bolts continue on their three-game road trip, with Saturday’s contest serving as the first in a back-to-back set that concludes Sunday in New Jersey against the Devils. Faced with a prime opportunity to close the gap in the Eastern Conference playoff race, the Lightning fell just short on Thursday night despite a furious late-game rally that resulted in a 4-3 defeat to the Jets at the MTS Centre in Winnipeg. A win in regulation would have moved Tampa Bay to within three points of the final postseason spot in the East, but instead the Lightning found themselves mired in an early deficit that prevented them from doing just that. Down 4-0 with nine minutes to go in regulation, Steven Stamkos’ league-leading 43rd goal of the season cut the deficit to three, which was then reduced down to just one after a pair of goals from Teddy Purcell and Martin St. Louis in a span of 46 seconds during the game’s final minute. Despite a valiant effort, Tampa Bay couldn’t get the equalizer as the Jets took the win and snapped the Lightning’s three-game win streak in the process.
PENGUINS – Pittsburgh hosts the Lightning in the rubber match of its three-game home stand that wraps up just 24 hours later on Sunday against the Blue Jackets. The Penguins come in with wins in four of their past six games, including a victory in the team’s most recent outing on Tuesday that resulted in a 2-0 shutout of the Eastern Conference-leading New York Rangers. Evgeni Malkin scored his 33rd goal of the year and Steve Sullivan added an insurance tally to support a 27-save performance by goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. The win gave Fleury his 22nd career shutout, tying the franchise record set by Tom Barrasso between 1988 and 2000, while keeping the Penguins smack in the middle of the Eastern Conference playoff standings by earning the club its 73rd point of the season.
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos has goals in four straight games, while also recording 11 points over that stretch. Teddy Purcell enters Saturday riding a four-game point streak with three goals and nine points in that span, and has also marked the score sheet in eight of his past nine games. For the Penguins, Evgeni Malkin has recorded points in each of his past three contests with four over that stretch and has registered at least a point in eight of his past nine outings as well.
“Our last effort just wasn’t good enough. I know it’s cliché, but we’re just going to have to bear down, be ready to go into the weekend and try to take some points out of there.” – Lightning defenseman Brendan Mikkelson, on heading into the team’s back-to-back set following Thursday’s 4-3 loss at Winnipeg.
The Lightning's Ryan Malone became the first Pittsburgh native to ever play for the Penguins, during the 2003-04 season. Malone had 87 goals and 82 assists in 299 regular-season games with the Penguins, and six goals and 25 assists in 25 playoff games with Pittsburgh. Greg Malone, Ryan's father, who is currently a Lightning scout, played for Pittsburgh from 1976-83. Ryan and Greg Malone are one of two father-son combinations in NHL history to tally hat tricks for the same NHL team, with the other combination being Ken Hodge Sr. and Ken Hodge Jr. with the Boston Bruins.