On Feb. 2, the Lightning dropped a 5-2 decision to Ottawa, which dropped them to 22-24-6 on the year.
At the time, their playoff chances were slim, and the club looked ready to accept a non-postseason fate by dealing away the likes of Brian Boyle, Ben Bishop and Valtteri Filppula prior to the deadline.
But if that was the message, it didn’t make its way down to Jon Cooper and company.
Since that loss to the Sens, the Bolts have gone 8-2-2 and catapulted back into playoff contention. And tonight, they’ll try to catapult even further when Andrei Vasilevskiy gets the nod at home against the Rangers.
Tasked with the No. 1 gig following Bishop’s departure, Vasilevskiy was solid in February, finishing with a .919 save percentage, and has been stellar through two games in March, stopping 59 of 63 shots faced in a pair of victories.
As a result, Vasilevskiy comes into tonight riding a three-game unbeaten streak, while the Bolts have won five of their last six. That includes Saturday’s 31-save shootout win over the Sabres.
With a win tonight, Tampa Bay could move one point back of the Islanders for the final wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.
For the Rangers, looks like Antti Raanta‘s in goal.
— Kari Lehtonen, coming off a terrific 41-save win over Florida on Saturday, goes back in for Stars as they visit Washington. He’ll be up against Braden Holtby.
— There’ll be a playoff-type atmosphere in Ottawa tonight as the B’s and Sens do battle, and each team will roll with its respective No. 1: Tuukka Rask for the Bruins, Craig Anderson for the Sens.
— Connor Hellebuyck, who projects to get a ton of minutes down the stretch with Ondrej Pavelec injured, gets the call for the Jets. No word yet on a starter for the visiting Sharks, though Martin Jones did face the Wild last night.