They face an uphill climb to make the playoffs, but the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to win even with a depleted roster.
The Lightning will go for their fourth straight victory when they visit the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night.
Hours after trading popular forward Steve Downie to Colorado as part of a three-team deal, Tampa Bay continued its winning ways with a 3-2 victory over Anaheim on Tuesday.
Steven Stamkos scored twice in the first period to increase his league lead to 42 goals, including five in the past three games along with three assists.
Mathieu Garon made 28 saves, helping the Lightning (27-26-6) improve to 10-3-2 since Jan. 7.
The victory came on an otherwise tough day for Tampa Bay. Besides news of the trade, the team also learned captain Vincent Lecavalier is out indefinitely with a broken hand. Lecavalier is third on the team with 46 points, including 21 goals.
"You've got to find a way to win, and we found a way to do that," Stamkos said. "So we've got to keep moving forward."
The trade of Downie, which resulted in the Lightning getting a first-round pick and minor league defenseman Sebastien Piche from Detroit, came a few days after the team dealt defenseman Pavel Kubina to Philadelphia and center Dominic Moore to San Jose.
"These moves are made to make us better in the future," general manager Steve Yzerman said. "We're excited about the future. These draft picks give us options. They don't help today, no question, but again my goal is to get a Stanley Cup here, and I think we have to do some tough things along the way to do that."
While the organization may be looking to the future, Lightning players are focused on the present. They are in 11th place in the Eastern Conference but are within five points of the eighth and final playoff spot.
Their next three games are all on the road against teams ahead of them in the conference standings.
"We've got to win every game," Stamkos said. "We know it's probably not going to happen, but we have to have that mentality."
The Jets (29-26-7) also are desperate for wins. They are tied with Florida for the Southeast Division lead but have played four more games, leaving them tied for eighth in the East with 65 points.
Winnipeg missed a chance for an extra point Tuesday against Philadelphia, allowing the tying goal with 10 seconds left in regulation and losing 5-4 in overtime.
The Jets overcame a pair of one-goal deficits only to have a three-game winning streak snapped. Ondrej Pavelec made a season-high 50 saves, Andrew Ladd scored twice and Dustin Byfuglien had a goal and an assist.
"You can see the positives in that game and that's what I'm going to look for," coach Claude Noel said. "Everyone else is going to dig the negatives ... but for me, the resiliency is good."
Byfuglien has been hot, with 11 points in the last seven games. He has a goal and two assists over the last two matchups with the Lightning as Winnipeg won both, including a 2-1 overtime victory Feb. 2.
Before those last two meetings, Tampa Bay had won 12 in a row in the series.
Stamkos has a goal and three assists in the season series and has 17 goals in his last 17 games against the Jets franchise.
- Tampa Bay Lightning
- Winnipeg Jets
- Tampa Bay
- Steven Stamkos
- Steve Downie