Sunday, April 3, 2011
Posted: 11:40 a.m.
The Tampa Bay Lightning's win over the Chicago Blackhawks last month was a rare highlight during a disappointing stretch that saw them lose the Southeast Division lead.
Despite that slump, a top-four finish in the Eastern Conference isn't out of the question for the now-resurgent Lightning, who look to win their fifth straight Sunday when they visit Chicago.
Tampa Bay's 4-3 shootout win over Chicago on March 9 was part of a 2-6-4 stretch from March 2-25. Once the Southeast leaders, the Lightning (43-24-11) now trail Washington by six points with only four games remaining.
A more attainable goal may be fourth place in the conference and home-ice advantage in the first round of the playoffs, but Tampa Bay trails Pittsburgh by three points for that distinction.
The Lightning have already clinched a playoff spot thanks to a four-game winning streak, their longest since a six-game run Jan. 18-Feb. 1. They defeated Minnesota 3-1 on Saturday, as Dwayne Roloson made 29 saves against his former team while Ryan Malone, Steve Downie and Sean Bergenheim each scored.
"We play really well when we have the momentum, and we're playing with a little big of a swagger," Roloson said.
While the Lightning are hoping to improve their playoff position, Chicago (42-27-8) still needs to clinch a spot in the postseason.
The Blackhawks have won four of six, staying three points ahead of Calgary for the final playoff spot with a 4-3 shootout win over Columbus on Friday. Bryan Bickell tied it in the third period, setting the stage for Viktor Stalberg to score the only goal of the tiebreaker.
Chicago won despite blowing an early two-goal lead and putting Columbus on the power play seven times. The Blackhawks killed off six of the opportunities.
"Nothing wrong with that, we'll take anything we can get right now," coach Joel Quenneville said. "When you're down late in the game, it turns out to be a huge win for us."
Quenneville may stick with his newly-configured top line combination of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Bickell, who joined the line Friday. Bickell's goal was his first since March 5, while Kane had a goal and assist. Both players were plus-2 on the night.
"It's been a while since I scored," Bickell said. "Good things happen when you put it on net and I was just trying to get a rebound for the second opportunity for Toews or Kaner ... It put a big grin on my face."
The Blackhawks, who have won six of seven at the United Center overall, have won seven of their last eight home games against the Lightning.
Kane has three goals and six assists in four career games against Tampa Bay, while Toews has five goals and three assists - also in four meetings with the Lightning.
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