After a strong start to the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning find themselves on the verge of matching their longest losing streak in nearly seven years.
Tampa Bay looks to avoid its seventh straight defeat Wednesday night when it hosts the Florida Panthers to conclude a home-and-home series between the Southeast Division rivals.
The Lightning opened this season with three straight victories, but have since dropped nine of 11. Tampa Bay (5-8-1) suffered its sixth consecutive loss Monday night, 4-3 at Florida (7-8-0).
It’s the Lightning’s longest slide since losing seven in a row from Feb. 6-18, 2001.
“We’re learning from this,” Tampa Bay defenseman Brad Lukowich said. “The best thing for us is to stay positive. It’s a struggle right now. But we’ve got to push the envelope and become even more positive.”
Monday’s loss dropped Tampa Bay to 0-7-0 on the road this season, and the Lightning will now be trying to avoid a third straight defeat at home. They won their first five games at the St. Pete Times Forum by outscoring opponents 21-8, but have given up 10 goals in their last two losses there.
Martin St. Louis, Lukowich and Michel Ouellet each had a goal and Vincent Lecavalier added two assists Monday for the Lightning, who allowed Florida’s David Booth to score the winner with 1:19 left in the third period.
“It’s my first one at home here in Florida, so it’s a special one,” said Booth, a second-year player whose first four career goals came on the road. “They were coming on strong. They wanted to get their first road victory.”
“They haven’t won on the road, you definitely want to keep the cap on them,” said Jokinen, who also had two assists. “The first 40 minutes was better than the last 20. (Tomas) Vokoun made some big saves. We got a big goal by Booth at the end.”
The Panthers have won three of four after dropping four of their previous five contests.
“It was definitely a big two points,” Jokinen told the Panthers’ official Web site. “There were some positive things we did, and there’s some areas we’ll have to pay attention to (Tuesday) in practice. The thing is we can’t trade chances with those guys. If we keep trading chances with them, it’s going to be a long, long night.”
Florida has beaten the Lightning twice in three meetings this season to improve to 13-5-1 in the series since the start of 2005-06. The Panthers, though, are just 4-4-1 at Tampa during that stretch.
Jokinen has two goals and five assists in the three games against the Lightning this season. His 21 goals versus Tampa Bay are his most against any team.
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