JETS (36-34-8) at LIGHTNING (35-35-7)
TV: CBC, SUN (HD)
Last 10: Winnipeg 4-6-0; Tampa Bay 4-6-0
Season Series: Fifth of six meetings between these Southeast Division rivals, who close out the regular season in Winnipeg on April 7. Vincent Lecavalier scored and Dwayne Roloson stopped 28 shots as the Lightning won 1-0 in the initial matchup back on Oct. 29, but the Jets have taken the next three. Steven Stamkos leads all scorers with 2 goals and 7 points for Tampa Bay, while Andrew Ladd
and Dustin Byfuglien
pace Winnipeg with 2 goals and 5 points each.
Big Story: The Jets will have a major say in whether Stamkos can reach 60 goals in his fourth NHL season. He was held to an assist Thursday night in New Jersey and stayed at 55 with five games remaining. In addition to facing Winnipeg twice, Tampa Bay has games left against Washington, Montreal and Toronto.
Jets: With a recent slump all but eliminating Winnipeg from playoff contention, it would have been easy for the Jets to fold Friday night after they fell behind on the road 3-1 at the hands of the Hurricanes. But Jim Slater
's goal midway through the second period got the comeback started, and Kyle Wellwood
connected on the power play with 4:47 left in regulation. That forced overtime, where Ladd needed just 16 seconds to beat ex-teammate Cam Ward to lift the Jets to a thrilling 4-3 win that keeps them mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference.
"To be down 3-1 shows a lot of character by the team, that we're not going to give up in here," Slater said. "In the second and third period, we said we're going to throw it all out there."
Lightning: The scoring hero in Tampa Bay for much of his young career has been Stamkos, but in a 6-4 loss to New Jersey it was veteran Ryan Malone recording his fourth career hat trick. Each of his goals put the Lightning in front, but it was never for long. After the third goal, the Devils not only tied it but went on to score four straight to chase Roloson and take control of the game. Trevor Smith tacked on a late score for Tampa Bay with 8.3 seconds to play.
"We threw [the game] away," coach Guy Boucher said. "We got what we deserved. There is a lack of urgency because of the ultimate goal, but that's something we have to manage. We have no right to change our game and be soft and get away from what makes us successful. In the last three games, our second period hasn't been good.
"What works is the simple stuff and we get into the fancy stuff. We stop shooting and try to stickhandle through guys, we turn the puck over and that costs us momentum, cost us goals and gives the other team all the momentum."
Who's Hot: Nik Antropov
returned from a lower-body injury Friday to score a goal in his fourth consecutive game for the Jets. Wellwood has 2 goals and 3 assists in the last three games. … Stamkos has 5 goals and 2 assists during a four-game points streak for the Lightning. Victor Hedman has 4 assists in as many games.
Injury Report: Winnipeg forwards Eric Fehr
(upper body) and Chris Thorburn
(lower body) remained out of the lineup Friday. … Tampa Bay has been without goalie Mathieu Garon (lower body) and forwards Nate Thompson (upper body) and Adam Hall (upper body).
Stat Pack: Jets defenseman Zach Bogosian
picked up 3 assists and took five shots on goal against the Hurricanes. Bogosian has 27 shots on goal in his last five games. … Sebastien Caron became the fourth goalie to play for the Lightning this season when he relieved Roloson in the third period Thursday (Garon and Dustin Tokarski are the others). Caron stopped all four shots he faced in his first NHL action since Jan. 16, 2007, for the Ducks.
Puck Drop: As captain, Ladd spoke about the importance of Winnipeg playing hard until the end -- and even if a playoff berth becomes out of reach, for next season.
"We're trying to develop a culture here of showing up and working your (rear end) off ... every day," he said. "It's one of those things that ... it's got to become an everyday thing where everyone shows up, knows they have to work hard or they're not going to play."