NHL On Tap: Panthers visit Lightning, trying to tie for first in Central

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Welcome to the NHL On Tap. Three NHL.com writers will share what they are most looking forward to on the schedule each day. Today, their choices from the four games Sunday.

Panthers, Lightning battle for first in Central

The Florida Panthers could tie the Tampa Bay LIghtning for first place in the Discover Central Division with a regulation win when they visit Amalie Arena in Tampa (4 p.m. ET; ESPN+, TVAS, SUN, FS-F, NHL.TV). Coming off a 2-0 victory against the Nashville Predators on Saturday, the Panthers are two points behind the Lightning and have won five of their past six games (5-1-0). The Lightning also won Saturday, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-1 for their third straight victory. Each team is 7-2-1 in its past 10 games and each has received strong play from its captain this season. Aleksander Barkov is tied for first on Florida with 35 points (13 goals, 22 assists) in 30 games; Steven Stamkos is second on Tampa Bay with 30 points (15 goals, 15 assists) in 28 games. Florida will have its hands full with Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman, who continues to contribute at each end and leads NHL defensemen with 32 points (six points, 26 assists). The only question that remains is, will Andrei Vasilevskiy start again? The Lightning goalie won his 11th straight start Saturday, tying Louis Domingue (Nov. 29, 2018 to Feb. 19, 2019) for the longest in their history. Vasilevskiy leads the NHL with 20 wins. — Brian Compton, deputy managing editor

Rubber match in Pittsburgh

It should be a fun finale of the three-game set when the Pittsburgh Penguins host the New Jersey Devils (1 p.m. ET; NHLN, SN1, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, MSG+, NHL.TV) after they split the first two in New Jersey. The Devils won 3-2 on Thursday when goalie Scott Wedgewood stepped in as a late replacement for the injured Mackenzie Blackwood and made 40 saves. The Penguins rebounded to win 3-1 Saturday. With center Evgeni Malkin out week to week with a lower-body injury, Pittsburgh’s top players carried the load. Center Sidney Crosby had two assists and forward Jake Guentzel scored his sixth goal in seven games to extend his team-leading total to 13. The Penguins will need more of the same to solidify their positioning in the competitive MassMutual East Division. — Tom Gulitti, staff writer

Vegas going for sixth consecutive win

The Vegas Golden Knights will attempt to extend their winning streak to six when they finish a two-game set at the Los Angeles Kings (6 pm ET; NBCSN, FS-W, NHL.TV). Vegas also had a six-game winning streak Feb. 22 – March 6 and has won 11 of its past 13 games (11-2-0). The Golden Knights’ recent success has been spearheaded by forwards Max Pacioretty and Mark Stone, who have combined for 16 points in the past five games. Pacioretty has scored nine points (four goals, five assists) in that span, including two goals in a 4-2 victory against the Kings on Friday. Stone has scored seven points (four goals, three assists) in his past five games and had an assist in the win. The Kings have struggled of late and are 3-5-3 in the past 11. Los Angeles also hasn’t found a way to solve Vegas this season. It is 0-3-0 and outscored 13-7. — Mike Zeisberger, staff writer

Sunday schedule

New Jersey Devils at Pittsburgh Penguins, 1 p.m. ET (NHLN, SN1, TVAS, ATTSN-PT, MSG+, NHL.TV) 

The Devils begin a six-game road trip; they are 6-3-2 away from home. The Penguins play the first of five straight at PPG Paints Arena, where they are 12-3-0.

Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning, 4 p.m. ET (ESPN+, TVAS, SUN, FS-F, NHL.TV) 

The Panthers are 2-1-0 against the Lightning this season. Florida is 10-2-1 on the road; Tampa Bay is 12-2-0 at home.

Vegas Golden Knights at Los Angeles Kings, 6 p.m. ET (NBCSN, FS-W, NHL.TV) 

Shea Theodore, who has scored nine points (two goals, seven assists) in a six-game point streak, can become the first defenseman in Golden Knights history with points in seven straight.

Nashville Predators at Dallas Stars, 8:30 p.m. ET (ESPN+, FS-SW+, FS-TN, NHL.TV) 

The Stars are 2-0-1 against the Predators and Dallas forward Joe Pavelski has scored eight points (four goals, four assists) and two game-winning goals in the season series.

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