(Sports Network) - The Dallas Stars will try to extend their season-opening winning streak to five games this evening when they travel to Florida to battle the Tampa Bay Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.
After missing the playoffs for a second straight year last season, the Stars have won their first four games to begin a season for the first time since they opened the 2006-07 campaign at 5-0.
Three of Dallas' victories have come past regulation, including Saturday at home versus St. Louis. Loui Eriksson scored his fourth goal of the season in regulation and had one of three Stars tallies in the shootout of a 3-2 victory.
James Neal also scored in regulation before Brad Richards and Mike Ribeiro also scored in the shootout. Richards added two assists, giving him an NHL high-tying nine points on the season, and Kari Lehtonen notched 41 saves.
"I would say in the first game of the year I wasn't sharp, but the team was sharp," Lehtonen told Dallas' website. "It is great to see how when one part is not doing well, the other part picks up. We were in a little bit of trouble and I was able to make good saves. The next night it could be another way. That's the sign of a good team."
Richards, drafted by the Lightning in 1998, will be making just his second trip back to Tampa Bay since getting dealt by the Lightning to the Stars during the 2007-08 season. The 30-year-old won the Conn Smythe trophy when Tampa Bay claimed a Stanley Cup title in 2004 and has a goal and three assists in two career games versus the Lightning.
Lehtonen, meanwhile, is 11-5-3 with a 2.25 goals-against average in his career versus the Lightning.
Tampa Bay also began the season red-hot, winning its first three games before getting blanked by Florida, 6-0, on Saturday. Tomas Vokoun stopped 29 saves for the Panthers.
Dan Ellis started an allowed three goals on 15 shots and did not make it out of the first period. Mike Smith, acquired from Dallas as part of the Richards deal, made 20 saves in relief.
"From the beginning to the end we were off in every aspect of our game," said Tampa head coach Guy Boucher. "The offense, the defense, the hitting, we just didn't have anything going tonight and it showed on the scoreboard."
It is unknown if Ellis or Smith will be in net tonight. Ellis is 5-4-0 with a 2.43 GAA in his career versus the Stars, while Smith is 1-0-1 with a 2.95 GAA in two games against his old squad.
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier was hit on his right hand by a shot during Saturday's loss and X-rays on the ailment were negative. He is likely to play tonight and has been held without a point in four of his last five games versus the Stars.
That includes last year's meeting in Dallas, won 4-3 in overtime by the Stars. These two clubs have split their last six meetings, but the Stars have 11 victories in their 15 all-time trips to Tampa. However, the Lightning did notch a victory the last time they met at St. Pete Times Forum on Jan. 19, 2009 to snap an eight-game series home losing streak.