The Tampa Bay Lightning’s grip on an Eastern Conference playoff berth has slipped with a 2-6-0 slide since the Olympic break.
The Lightning, barely holding on to a seventh seed in the East, look to turn things around at home against the Philadelphia Flyers.
Tampa Bay defeated Pittsburgh and Montreal on its just-completed five-game road trip, has struggled defensively since the break. The Lightning have been outscored 40-19, keeping opponents under four goals just once in eight games.
John Grahame has allowed 23 goals in his last four games, going 1-3-0 and posting a 5.55 goals-against average. Sean Burke also is 1-3-0 since the break after a strong performance in a 2-1 win over Montreal Monday, but will miss at least the next few days with a broken finger suffered in practice Thursday.
Grahame was better Tuesday night as he made 27 saves, but the end result wasn’t much different for the Lightning, who lost 4-3 to Ottawa. Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella managed to stay positive in defeat.
“They should feel good about how they played,” said Tortorella. “It’s our seventh game in 11 nights against a quality team and we’ve got to just find positives as we go through here and there are plenty of them tonight.”
The Flyers aren’t faring much better with a 3-4-1 mark since the break, though they snapped a six-game road losing streak Wednesday with a 4-0 win over the Florida Panthers.
Philadelphia broke the road skid convincingly as Robert Esche made 27 saves in his first shutout of the season.
“We’ve played some good games for 45 or 50 minutes,” Flyers coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Tonight we played 60 minutes.”
Earning a second straight road victory won’t be an easy task. The Flyers have lost seven straight games to Tampa Bay since their last win in the series, on April 4, 2003.