Penguins-Lightning Preview

The Associated Press

Coming off an explosive offensive display, Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to pick up steam.

Keeping things going, though, could prove difficult against a Pittsburgh Penguins team that has recently had their number.

Seeking a fourth consecutive win, the Lightning try to snap a six-game losing streak to the visiting Penguins, who hope to bounce back from their first defeat Saturday night.

After opening the season with a 3-1 loss at Boston, Tampa Bay (3-1-0) has outscored opponents 12-6 during a three-game run. The Lightning were at their best Thursday, easily beating Florida 7-2 behind Stamkos' hat trick and two goals from Valtteri Filppula.

They were the first scores of the season for Stamkos, who finished second in the NHL with 29 goals last season.

"To be completely honest, I think this might have been the first time that I didn't (worry)," said Stamkos, who also added an assist. "Usually I do. If I don't score one game, sometimes you have trouble sleeping, thinking what you should have done. I just kind of had an eerie feeling that tonight was going to be a good night."

Martin St. Louis added a goal and an assist while Teddy Purcell notched a career high-tying three helpers. Matthew Carle, Alex Killorn and Sami Salo chipped in with two assists apiece.

"You know they're dynamic," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said of Stamkos and St. Louis. "You know that if one guy has the puck, he's looking for the other guy, that they're really highly skilled players, but more than anything, they work as hard as anybody in the league."

With things going well, the Lightning can't be happy to see Pittsburgh (3-1-0), which has won six straight in the series by a combined 33-15 score. Penguins All-Star center Evgeni Malkin has totaled 10 goals and four assists while playing in five of those games.

While Pittsburgh surrendered three goals in winning its first three games, coach Dan Bylsma's team kicked off its road schedule with Friday's 6-3 loss to Florida. Malkin, Craig Adams and Pascal Dupuis scored but Jeff Zatkoff allowed all six goals on 30 shots in his NHL debut.

"Obviously not the result I was looking for," Zatkoff said. "I need to get better and make sure I'm ready for the next one."

The Penguins could turn back to No. 1 goalie Marc-Andre Fleury, who recorded a 1.00 goals-against average and one shutout in the first three games. Fleury has won four consecutive starts against the Lightning and is 13-6-0 with a 2.11 GAA in 19 games in the series since 2007-08.

Tampa Bay's Ben Bishop has also shined, yielding two goals in each of the team's three victories. Bishop, though, was injured against the Panthers and is uncertain to play Saturday.

If he can't go, Anders Lindback would start. Lindback stopped 22 shots against the Bruins in his only action thus far.

"We were going to rotate our goalies at some point anyways," coach Jon Cooper told the team's official website. "Just because there's some wear and tear on Bishop, doesn't mean that Lindy wasn't going in no matter what."

Whoever is in net will need to be wary of superstar Sidney Crosby, who has 15 points in his last 11 games versus Tampa Bay, including four goals and five assists during a five-game scoring streak.

Crosby has two goals and three assists this season.