TAMPA -- There has been a lot of winning hockey played in these parts the last few years but the Tampa Bay Lightning have never won 10 games in a row in their history.
The Bolts won a Stanley Cup in 2004, got to the Cup final in 2015 (losing to Chicago) and also advanced to the East final in 2011, 2016 and 2018. But in none of those seasons did they ever carry the kind of winning streak the Buffalo Sabres brought to Amalie Arena on Thursday night.
"It's very difficult in today's game with the parity in this league to have a streak like that," Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said after his team's morning skate. "When things are going right like they are for them, you just have that mentality every night you're going to find a way to win. They're playing with confidence in situations where maybe in the past for them, it didn't go their way.
"They have a really good team and when you're feeling like that, it's easy to stay on that train and keep pushing. It's a big challenge for us."
Entering the game, the Sabres led the Lightning by one point in the battle for first place in the Atlantic Division and first place in the NHL's overall standing. That was noted in the Tampa Bay dressing room.
"They're one point ahead of us in the standings. They're in our way for No. 1," said Victor Hedman, the reigning Norris Trophy winner as the NHL's best defenseman. "So we have to make sure that we have a good game tonight. They're finding different ways to win. It's a good team with great additions in the summer. The core players are getting better. We're excited to get a shot at them."
Stamkos has said several times over the last couple years he could see Buffalo as an emerging team in the Atlantic Division and it appears his words are finally coming to fruition. The Sabres, according to Stamkos, are finding the belief winning teams must have.
"It plays a huge part, just like losing and having that snowball effect that way," Stamkos said. "We have that belief we can go out every night and win, which is what they're showing right now. Whether you play great or not, sometimes your goaltender or special teams steal one for you. You find ways to win instead of finding ways to lose."