(AP) — It’s been a long two weeks for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who haven’t tasted victory since the first of the month.
Not much has gone the Florida Panthers’ way of late, either.
Looking to avoid matching their longest losing streak from all of last season, visiting Tampa Bay tries for a sixth consecutive win over Florida as these in-state rivals square off Saturday.
The Lightning (6-6-1) averaged 5.3 goals in winning six of their first seven games but have since been outscored 21-12 during an 0-5-1 skid. Tampa Bay has gone 2 for 18 (11.1 percent) on the power play over that stretch while getting outshot 186-147.
“We’re all disappointed with where we’re at, I feel like we wasted a good start,” said Martin St. Louis, who leads the team with 19 points. “But we’re fighting here, we’re trying to keep plugging away and finding answers.
“I don’t think we got away from it, I just think we had a favorable schedule, playing teams on back-to-backs, backup goalies, tons of power plays that was clicking. So that helps getting your team off to a good start.”
Tampa Bay’s woes continued Thursday in a 4-3 loss to Washington. St. Louis tallied a goal and an assist and Mathieu Garon, starting in place of an ill Anders Lindback, stopped 35 shots.
“Either we just stay close and keep grinding and we come out of this, it’s still going to be a fight after we win one game,” said coach Guy Boucher, whose team went 0-6-1 from Jan. 3-15, 2012.
“It won’t change anything in terms of how we’re supposed to play, we’re just trying to be more consistent at it and get a bit of something positive out of it.”
The Lightning could be feeling good about their chances of bouncing back against the Panthers (4-6-3), whom they’ve outscored 21-10 during their run in the series. Captain Vincent Lecavalier and rookie Cory Conacher were two of four players to record a goal and an assist during a 5-2 win over Florida on Jan. 29.
Steven Stamkos also scored and has seven goals and three assists over a six-game point streak against the Panthers. Stamkos had seven goals and 16 points in the team’s first eight games but has notched just two assists since.
Conacher is experiencing a similar offensive drought. He has gone pointless during Tampa Bay’s skid after compiling five goals and seven assists over the first seven games.
Florida failed to score for the second time in three games Thursday, falling 1-0 to Montreal in overtime. Jose Theodore made 31 saves for the Panthers, who have converted just one of 15 chances (6.7 percent) on the man advantage over a 1-1-3 stretch.
“It’s frustrating anytime you lose in overtime,” defenseman Brian Campbell told the league’s official website. “We’re just trying to get some wins here and one point is not going to do it. We just have to pick up and keep going and be ready.”
Theodore had won nine consecutive starts versus Tampa Bay before allowing a combined 10 goals in going 0-1-2 over his last three. He surrendered a season worst-tying five goals in last month’s meeting.
Garon could make a second consecutive start with Lindback’s status unknown. Garon is 0-3-0 with a 4.07 goals-against average this month, but he’s 5-1-1 with a 2.02 mark in his last eight games versus Florida.
Lindback, who made 26 saves in the Jan. 29 win, is 2-0-0 with one shutout against the Panthers.
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