The Tampa Bay Lightning lost for the first time at home since mid-December on Tuesday night, but the team may have more to worry about these days than winning streaks — primarily the health of superstar captain Steven Stamkos.
The heart and soul of the Lightning, Stamkos failed to skate in the third period of his team’s 4-3 loss to Toronto on Tuesday.
The Maple Leafs held on for the win, earning two big points — the gap between Toronto and the Florida Panthers — to cling to third place in the division. If the gap remains the same in the current state of affairs in the Atlantic, Toronto would be pitted against the Lightning in a first-round playoff series when the NHL postseason opens in April.
Tampa Bay, which exchanged multiple draft picks around the deadline to acquire veteran talent, will try to rebound when it hosts the Chicago Blackhawks on Thursday in the conclusion of the two-game season series.
The health of Stamkos (29 goals, 37 assists) is of essential concern for Jon Cooper, though the Lightning coach wouldn’t reveal much following the loss.
“Some things that have been bothering him in the past has come back,” Cooper said.
Ondrej Palat slid up into Stamkos’ spot after the injury resurfaced in the opening match of a season-long five-game homestand, but the Lightning watched their franchise-record 14-game winning streak over Atlantic competition come to a halt.
Their franchise-record 11-game home winning streak and 13-game home point streak also were stopped.
Chicago held a one-goal lead over the Blues in St. Louis after two periods Tuesday, but the Stanley Cup champions tallied four times in the final 20 minutes to claim their fifth straight win with a 6-5 victory.
Defenseman Duncan Keith, Patrick Kane and Brandon Saad each netted a power-play goal for the Blackhawks, who are 2-7-2 in their last 11 games. Keith’s goal was the 100th of his career while Kane’s tally extended his point streak to six games (three goals, six assists).
Chicago coach Jeremy Colliton took the man-advantage output as a positive in defeat.
“Yeah, I mean, that’s a good thing for us, no question,” Colliton said. “We haven’t been able to get it firing consistently. It seems like we’re there. It can help you win games, especially on the road. It got us back into this one and gives us a chance to win in the third.”
Corey Crawford allowed six goals on 37 shots in the loss. He was backed up by Malcolm Subban, who was acquired from Vegas in a deal that sent fellow goalie Robin Lehner to the Golden Knights.
The Lightning posted a 4-2 win in Chicago on Nov. 21 in the first meeting. Mikhail Sergachev, Anthony Cirelli, Brayden Point and Cedric Paquette each tallied in the win.
–Field Level Media