Jets-Lightning Preview


The Winnipeg Jets kept their own dim playoff hopes flickering by ending the hopes of a Southeast Division rival.

They'll try to repeat the feat Saturday night at Tampa Bay, where a victory could keep the Jets alive in the postseason race while formally eliminating the Lightning.

Winnipeg (36-34-8) had tumbled almost completely out of the Eastern Conference playoff picture by losing three straight and five of six, but stopped its fall at least temporarily Friday with a 4-3 overtime win at Carolina to open a four-game road trip.

Kyle Wellwood's power-play goal with 4:47 to play in regulation tied the score for the Jets, who won - and mathematically eliminated the Hurricanes - when Andrew Ladd scored his 25th goal 16 seconds into the extra session.

"We're trying to develop a culture here of showing up and working your (rear end) off ... every day,'' Ladd said. "It's one of those things that ... it's got to become an everyday thing where everyone shows up, knows they have to work hard or they're not going to play.''

The Jets also got a bit of help Friday night when Pittsburgh won 5-3 at Buffalo, keeping the Sabres stuck on 86 points with four games remaining. Washington is currently tied with Buffalo for the eighth and final playoff spot, six points ahead of Winnipeg.

Tampa Bay (35-35-7) has a game in hand on the Sabres, Capitals and Jets but with 77 points that may not matter. A win by either Washington or Buffalo - or a regulation loss - would eliminate the Lightning.

It's also possible that both Winnipeg and Tampa Bay will be eliminated after this contest, if the Lightning win and either the Caps or Sabres also emerge victorious Saturday night.

The Lightning return home after dropping the final two contests on a three-game trip, 5-2 at Boston on Tuesday and 6-4 at New Jersey on Thursday.

Ryan Malone had a hat trick against the Devils, but it went for naught as Tampa Bay allowed four goals in the second period.

"(Thursday) we killed ourselves in the second period with turnovers,'' coach Guy Boucher said. "We weren't good in the third. They kept on with their momentum. We deserved it. That's what we deserved. We killed ourselves in the second period. At 3-2, if we just keep playing, we have a chance. But we just opened up the flood gates with our fancy stuff and it cost us.''

Malone has eight goals and 10 assists over his last 20 games. Linemate Steven Stamkos assisted on Malone's first score Thursday, but his own league-leading goal total remained at 55 after he failed to extend his goal-scoring streak to four games.

Stamkos has recorded at least a point in all four meetings with Winnipeg this season, totaling two goals and five assists, but the Lightning have gone 1-2-1 in those contests.

For his career, Stamkos has 18 goals and 15 assists - both his most against any opponent - versus the Jets/Thrashers franchise.

These teams will meet again to conclude the regular season April 7 at Winnipeg.

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