|6:00 PM PT7:00 PM MT8:00 PM CT9:00 PM ET1:00 GMT9:00 6:00 PM MST8:00 PM EST5:00 UAE (+1)21:00 ETNaN:� BRT, October 27, 2018
Gila River Arena, Glendale, Arizona Attendance: 13,623
Improved Coyotes host streaking Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning at Arizona Coyotes
- The Lightning have allowed only one goal on the power play this season, the fewest in the NHL. The Coyotes have allowed only two, right behind Tampa Bay for best in the NHL.
- The Coyotes have won two straight after losing three of the previous four. They scored three goals in the third period in their most recent win over Vancouver -- last season they had a -28 goal differential in the third, tied with the Canadiens for worst in the NHL.
- Clayton Keller took only one shot in the Coyotes' win over Vancouver, but it proved to be the game-winning goal in the game. He has five points in his last four games after having only one in his first five.
- The Coyotes have only allowed 19 goals this season. Only the Devils and the Lightning (both with 18) have allowed fewer goals.
- Hurricanes rally past Caps, force Game 7
- Stars look to oust Predators in Game 6
- Bruins, Leafs ready for another Game 7
- Healthy Vlasic helps Sharks reach Game 7
- Capitals' Oshie likely out for playoffs
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are well aware of the dangers of waiting until January or February to start making a playoff push.
Perhaps that's why they often take care of business, and in an emphatic way, well before that.
The Arizona Coyotes, whose inability to reach the playoffs is in direct contrast to the Lightning's frequent playoff success, know all too well how a season can get away from a team in October.
The Lightning, off to their usual strong start, will take a seven-game points streak into Gila River Arena to play the Coyotes on Saturday night. It's the second half of a back-to-back for the Lightning, who won their third in a row by defeating the Vegas Golden Knights 3-2 at T-Mobile Arena on Friday.
Tyler Johnson, Brayden Point and J.T. Miller scored for the Lightning, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 29 saves.
"Our goaltender was there when we needed him and recorded a big win in a tough spot on the road," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He was in the zone again and was tracking pucks, and our guys were good with letting him see pucks. You can get the shots, but if he can see them, he'll usually stop them."
Victor Hedman, the Lightning's star defenseman, sustained an undisclosed injury midway through the first period and didn't return. He is not expected to play Saturday, but Cooper doesn't think his injury will be long term.
The Lightning are 7-1-1 overall and 6-0-1 in their last seven games. Nothing new there for a team that opened up 9-1-1 and 16-3-2 last season and was 5-1 to start the 2016-17 season. They've used good beginnings to help them reach the Eastern Conference finals two of the last three seasons.
The Coyotes, however, aren't the team they were at the start of the last two NHL seasons -- and that's encouraging to coach Rick Tocchet and his players.
Arizona opened up 1-10-1 last season and never recovered. The season before that, the Coyotes lost five of their first six. This season, the Coyotes (4-5-0) have won two in a row -- the first time in three Octobers they've done that -- and three of four.
Much of the reason for the Coyotes' improvement is their goaltending, with both starter Antti Raanta (2-4, 2.32 goals-against average) and backup Darcy Kuemper (2-1, 1.34) playing well to date.
"We've gotten excellent goaltending, right from the start of the year, and it's really helped us," Tocchet said Friday. "We're still giving up some Grade-A chances, and we'll try to eliminate that, but the goalies have been really good. They're giving us a chance to win every night."
Raanta sat out the last two games with flu-like symptoms, and Kuemper stepped in to make 62 saves on 64 shots as the Coyotes beat the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday and the Vancouver Canucks on Thursday, both by 4-1 scores.
The Coyotes' season quickly came apart last season when Raanta missed much of the first half of the season with three different injuries and Tocchet and general manager John Chayka couldn't find a suitable backup. They tried Louis Domingue, Scott Wedgewood and Adin Hill without success, with Dominque going 0-6 with a 4.33 goals-against average and an .856 save percentage.
But once Raanta was healthy during the second half of the season, his 2.24 goals-against average and .930 save percentage were the best in the NHL for goaltenders who played as much as he did. And Chayka not only picked up the reliable Kuemper in a late-season trade with the Los Angeles Kings, he signed Raanta and Kuemper to multi-year contracts.
Coincidentally, Domingue landed with the Lightning despite his horrid statistics with Arizona, and he'll start Saturday night against his former team.
The Coyotes also appear to have solved their early-season scoring issues. They were shut out in three of their first four games, including their first two home games, but they've scored 15 goals in the past four games.
"We didn't score in the first few games, but we knew if we stuck with it the goals would come in bunches, and that's kind of happened," forward Brendan Perlini said.
The Lightning and Coyotes split their two-game season series in 2017-18, with each team winning in the other's building.
Updated October 26, 2018