Lightning, Flames clash in battle of East vs. West

Field Level Media

The Eastern Conference and league-leading Tampa Bay Lightning are the hosts.

The visitors are the Calgary Flames, one of the top teams in the Western Conference.

Tuesday's tilt has all the makings of a heavyweight tilt. Except that while the Lightning are flying high, the Flames are floundering.

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The Flames have just one win in their last four games (1-2-1) and have seen what was a six-point edge on their Western Conference, and Pacific Division, rivals dissipate.

Suddenly the Flames are struggling defensively and can't find the goal-scoring touch that made them such a potent club through December and January.

Their last game, a 4-3 shootout loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday night, was a prime example. The defeat came despite firing 47 shots on goal through overtime in a game that was one-sided everywhere but on the scoreboard.

"You need these points at this time of the year," defenseman Travis Hamonic told Postmedia after the loss. "It's a grind, right? So every point matters and teams are close, things are tight. We thought it was a pretty good game on our part. We carried a lot of the play, but we just couldn't get it."

Sure, the Canucks rode a fantastic performance from goalie Jacob Markstrom to upset the Flames, but there's more at play with the Flames these days. Teams are ratcheting up their games as the playoff chase intensifies, so the Flames must tighten up their game at one end and bear down on the scoring chances at the other.

"We've got a lot of guys with a ton of skill that have put up some extremely high numbers so far this year, so we trust our guys, we trust our system and our skill level," Hamonic said. "You're going to have those games when it just seems like you can't get that extra one. We had some looks but just couldn't get over the hill."

As much as he must focus his charges on righting their wrongs, head coach Bill Peters has had just as big of a job these days ensuring they don't start spiralling downward.

After all, the Flames are 9-2-2 in their last 13 outings, so the message right now is staying upbeat is the best course of action through the struggles.

"We'll take some of the positives out of (Saturday's game) and move on to Florida," Peters said.

Meanwhile, the Lightning keep finding gold at every turn. Sunday's 5-2 win over the Florida Panthers not only meant a season-series sweep of their state rivals, but Tampa is a dozen points up on the rest of the league and even benefiting from huge performances from lesser lights.

Case in point: Backup goalie Louis Domingue has won 10 consecutive starts in goal, a franchise record, while Ryan Callahan -- a healthy scratch three straight games and inserted into the lineup because Ondrej Palat was injured -- collected the game-winning goal.

"It's always good to get an opportunity to get back in," Callahan told the Tampa Bay Times. "You want to contribute, so seeing that one go in is always good."

--Field Level Media

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