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Stars-Lightning Preview

By NOEY KUPCHAN

STATS Writer

(AP) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning came out with a lousy effort in their first game after clinching a postseason berth.

The Dallas Stars are still trying to get in.

Tampa Bay goes for a fourth consecutive win over the visiting Stars, who try to continue their playoff push Saturday night.

While the Lightning (42-26-9) locked up a postseason spot with Tuesday's 3-1 win over Montreal, they didn't look anything like a playoff team in Thursday's 4-1 defeat to Calgary. Ondrej Palat provided all the offense for Tampa Bay, which allowed two goals in the first and third periods.

"Players in the room have to take some accountability for themselves for showing up ready to play," coach Jon Cooper told the NHL's official website. "Preparation, work ethic, they have to bring that. Mentally I didn't think we were all there in the first period. That was unfortunate.

"Tough one to swallow tonight. It was a 7:30 start to the game, not an 8:15 start. We started at 8:15."

Ben Bishop stopped 21 of 24 shots, and captain Steven Stamkos was held without a point for the third straight game. The Lightning have followed a 7-0-4 stretch by dropping two of three in regulation.

"We didn't play well," Stamkos said. "You can talk about letdowns, you can talk about whatever, but once the puck drops you play the way you are capable of and we didn't do that. It's frustrating and disappointing to sit here at this point of the year and play like that. It felt like we didn't want to win the game."

Tampa Bay improved to 5-0-2 against the Stars since 2005-06 after pulling out a 4-2 road win in this season's first matchup March 1. Victor Hedman, Alex Killorn and Palat each notched two assists that night while Bishop made 39 saves.

"He's a big man," Stars center Vernon Fiddler said of the 6-foot-7 Bishop. "He covers a lot of the net. He made some big saves."

Dallas (37-28-11) had won three straight and five of six before falling 4-1 at Carolina on Thursday. With 85 points, the Stars are in a tight race with Phoenix for the Western Conference's second wild-card spot.

After a scoreless first period, Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals in a span of 4:36 early in the second. He was replaced by Tim Thomas, who went on to stop 15 of 16 shots.

"It was a lack of aggression," coach Lindy Ruff said. "We sat inside too much. We gave them room and we gave them time. Even at 2-0, the way we were playing, we still had a chance to get back in it. But when you get down three goals, you start playing a high-risk game."

Tyler Seguin scored his team-leading 34th goal, giving him nine and 11 assists over the last 14 games. He has just one assist in five visits to Tampa Bay.

Lehtonen is 3-7-2 with a 2.96 goals-against average in his last 12 road contests. He has posted a 3.77 GAA in starting the last three games against the Lightning.

Bishop is among the league leaders with a 2.18 GAA, but he's allowed at least three goals in six of nine games. He is 20-4-5 with a 2.11 GAA at home despite Thursday's loss.

Bishop's only matchup against the Stars came last month. Stamkos, who missed that game due to injury, has three goals and two assists in four meetings in the series.

Updated April 4, 2014

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