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Since losing to the Tampa Bay Lightning one month ago, the Ottawa Senators have managed to get their season back on track.
The first-place Senators look to continue to build their Eastern Conference lead and avenge last month's loss to the Lightning when the teams meet Saturday at Scotiabank Place.
On Dec. 4, Ottawa (26-10-4) lost to the Lightning 4-3 in a shootout. The defeat was the seventh in a row for the Senators, whose lead atop the East was just two points over second-place Carolina.
Ottawa snapped its losing streak the following night with a win over Florida, though, and has gone 10-3-1 since the loss to Tampa Bay to increase its conference lead to seven points over New Jersey. The Senators, who lead Montreal by nine points in the Northeast Division, now look to resume their usual dominance of Tampa Bay.
The Senators are 20-4-1 with one tie against the Lightning overall since the end of the 1999-2000 season, and have defeated them in 15 of 17 home meetings since 1997-98.
On Friday night, Ottawa squandered a three-goal lead and needed goals from Dany Heatley and Daniel Alfredsson late in the third period to earn a 5-3 win over Buffalo.
"That's what you have elite players for," Senators coach John Paddock said. "That's what those guys have to do at big times if you're going to be a successful team."
Heatley, who has 24 goals this season and also recorded an assist on Friday, has 10 goals and 12 assists in his last 13 games. He has three goals and three assists in his last three games against Tampa Bay.
Alfredsson, the team's leading scorer with 25 goals, had two goals and an assist in last month's loss to the Lightning, giving him eight goals and eight assists in his last 11 games against them.
The Lightning (15-22-4), owners of the worst record in the East, are mired in their third six-game losing streak of the season.
They have lost 11 of their last 13 games, including the first two on their current four-game trip to fall to an NHL-worst 3-14-2 away from home. They are trying to avoid dropping seven straight games in a single season for the first time since Feb. 6-18, 2001.
In Thursday's 6-3 loss to Montreal, Tampa Bay rallied from two goals down to tie the game at 3 after two periods, but gave up the game's final three goals in the final 20 minutes.
"I really liked some of the fight in our team tonight in battling back, but we just haven't been able to finish the game," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "So we're going to continue coaching, we're going to continue trying to stay together and try to find some positives and try to force things to come our way."
Vincent Lecavalier scored his team-leading 27th goal in the defeat. Lecavalier, who leads the league with 60 points, has scored a goal in each of his last four games in Ottawa.
Karri Ramo started for the sixth time in seven games on Thursday and finished with 24 saves. He is 0-4-1 with a 3.57 GAA in five starts since earning his first NHL win by beating Toronto on Dec. 20.
|Jan 24 '08||OTT 8 at TBL 4||A. Vermette|
|Jan 19 '08||TBL 2 at OTT 0||M. St. Louis|
|Jan 05 '08||TBL 3 at OTT 4 - OT||M. Fisher|
|Dec 04 '07||OTT 3 at TBL 4 - SO||V. Prospal|