The Minnesota Wild’s momentum may be unwinding as they sit on the cusp of their longest slide of the season. Mean while a pair of wins powered by Steven Stamkos have the Tampa Bay Lightning’s confidence growing.
Stamkos will look for another offensive showing Monday night against the Wild as they Lightning go for a third straight victory. But facing Niklas Backstrom who is 4-1-1 with a 1.80 goals against average against the Lightning may be a tough task.
Stamkos is second in the NHL with 14 goals and his 24 points also rank among the league leaders. The All Star center totaled three goals and one assist during a home and home sweep of Florida over the weekend, as Tampa Bay (11-9-2) followed Friday’s 2-1 win with a 5-1 victory Saturday.
Stamkos had one goal and three assists during the Lightning’s 1-4-0 stretch prior to Thanksgiving.
Minnesota’s confidence has likely taken a hit after a sloppy effort in a 5-2 loss to Calgary on Sunday following a defeat by the same score to Edmonton two nights prior. The Wild (13-7-3) were on a 10-2-0 run before those defeats to move near the top of the Western Conference, and they haven’t dropped three straight all season.
Slow starts are posing a problem for the Wild, who have been outscored 9-3 in the opening period over the last six games. Niklas Backstrom, who had missed the previous three games while tending to a personal matter, was pulled Sunday after giving up three tallies on eight shots in 8:45.
Koivu, though, continues to provide scoring punch for Minnesota, which is attempting to close out this six game homestand above .500.
The center has two goals and five assists during the homestand, and he’s been productive all season at Xcel Energy Center, getting 12 of his team leading 17 points in 13 games there, helping the Wild go 8-4-1.
He has six points in seven career meetings with Tampa Bay, including three in three home matchups.
Stamkos has four points in five games against the Wild, and teammate Martin St. Louis is also looking to build on a strong weekend after getting one goal and two assists against Florida.
His tally Saturday was his 300th for Tampa Bay, joining Vincent Lecavalier (361) as the only Lightning players to reach the milestone.
St. Louis has a point in each of his last four meetings with Minnesota.
The teams split two meetings last season with the visitor winning each time, including Tampa Bay’s 3-1 win in St. Paul on April 2. Dwayne Roloson had 29 saves in that game, but Mathieu Garon has started and won the last two games for the Lightning, stopping 47 of 49 shots.
Despite last season’s defeat, the Wild hold a 4-2-0 edge on Tampa Bay at home in the all time series. Backstrom is 4-1-1 with a 1.80 goals against average against the Lightning, while backup Josh Harding has never faced them.
Tampa Bay Lightning – Mathieu Garon
Minnesota Wild – Niklas Backstrom
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