A seemingly favorable stretch of games for the Lightning begins Friday night with a visit from the Eastern Conference's last-place team, the Ottawa Senators.
A season-worst, 0-3-1 slide to open this month, along with Washington's six-game win streak, cost Tampa Bay its spot atop the Southeast Division. The Lightning, though, stayed within two points of the Capitals with a 4-3 shootout win over Chicago on Wednesday.
After his team blew a two-goal lead in regulation, St. Louis sealed that victory with a nifty spin in front of Corey Crawford followed by a backhanded shot that went in off the crossbar.
"It's a huge win," St. Louis said. "We've been playing pretty good hockey. We just haven't gotten the results. ... This time of year, it's all about results."
Tampa Bay (38-21-8) has an opportunity for some more favorable results in its drive to regain the lead in the Southeast and earn its first playoff berth since 2006-07.
The Lightning will face only one team currently in playoff position over its next nine games, a trip to sixth-place Montreal on Thursday. They have three matchups in that stretch against the Senators (24-34-9), including another at the St. Pete Times Forum on March 29.
Tampa Bay will also travel to Ottawa on March 19 to wrap up a four-game trip.
"We got to keep pushing," coach Guy Boucher said. "If the door doesn't want to open, we're going to break it down. We're going to do what we need to do."
Boucher's team will have to do that without Pavel Kubina for the next three games. The NHL suspended the defenseman on Thursday for an elbow to the head of Chicago's Dave Bolland.
Given their recent history against Ottawa, the Lightning might not need his help. They're 3-0-1 in their last four against the Senators and will try to win three straight home matchups for the second time in the all-time series.
In the most recent meeting Jan. 8 at Scotiabank Place, Tampa Bay used third-period goals from St. Louis and Adam Hall for a 2-1 victory. Dwayne Roloson also stopped 31 shots to snap a personal five-game skid to Ottawa.
If he starts again, he'll face a team that's scored eight goals in five games this month. The Senators, though, have prevailed in three of those thanks to goaltender Craig Anderson.
Anderson, brought over in a trade with Colorado on Feb. 18, has allowed one goal or fewer in seven of his nine consecutive starts with the team, including Thursday's 2-1 victory at Florida.
After Erik Karlsson scored twice, Anderson just missed his second shutout with the Senators as he gave up a goal to Clay Wilson with 4:13 remaining.
"A shutout is a great accolade to have, but the more important thing is the team got the win and everyone's happy in the room," Anderson said.
If he gets another start, Anderson will try to build on his 3-1-2 record and 1.36 goals-against average in seven career matchups with the Lightning.
He'll also try to stop NHL goal-scoring leader Steven Stamkos, who has four goals and four assists during a five-game point streak against Ottawa. St. Louis has also recorded a point in five consecutive matchups.
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