Martin St. Louis made sure the Tampa Bay Lightning picked up two critical points in the standings on Sunday afternoon.
He even got a little help from his goaltender, too.
St. Louis scored three times and had an assist, and Mathieu Garon made 19 saves to help the Lightning edge out the New Jersey Devils, 4-3, at the Prudential Center.
After dropping the first two contests in regulation on its three-game road trip, Tampa Bay picked up two points in Sunday’s finale to climb back to within six points of division-rival Winnipeg for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference standings.
“It was a tough way to start the road trip, but we wanted to respond and come out strong today,” Lightning forward Teddy Purcell said.
Matt Gilroy had Tampa Bay’s other goal, and Purcell added three assists.
Steven Stamkos also chipped in a pair of helpers for the Lightning, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
After Alex Ponikarovsky opened the scoring at 12:07 to give New Jersey a 1-0 lead, St. Louis scored twice in the second period to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead with approximately five minutes to go in the frame. The sequence included the Lightning forward’s 20th of the season, marking the ninth consecutive campaign in which he’s scored 20 or more.
His third of the night completed his sixth career hat trick at 10:18 of the third, and stood up as the game-winner, even after Zach Parise cut Tampa Bay’s two-goal lead by one with a power-play goal with 2:35 to play in regulation.
“It’s nice to get a few goals especially after our past two games that we weren’t very happy with,” St. Louis said. “You just have to go to the scoring areas and try to be opportunistic.”
Petr Sykora also scored for New Jersey, which fell for just the fourth time this month. The Devils have now dropped two straight following a four-game win streak.
With Tampa Bay leading 2-1 after 40 minutes, the teams exchanged a pair of goals just 41 seconds apart early in the third to make for an interesting final frame.
New Jersey started the period on the power play after Stamkos ended the second frame by being called for a penalty. New Jersey didn’t capitalize, but Sykora’s 15th of the year at even strength at 2:28 started the sequence to draw New Jersey even at 2-2.
It was short lived, however, as Gilroy got the Lightning right back in front with a shot past Martin Brodeur off a cross-crease feed from St. Louis.
Brodeur finished the night with 12 saves after allowing four goals on just 16 shots.
After St. Louis and Parise traded scores to make it 4-3 with just over two minutes to play, the Devils pulled Brodeur, creating a 6-on-4 chance, but the Lightning were able to kill it off and hold on for the regulation win.
Purcell assisted on all three of Tampa Bay’s final tallies, now giving him points in a career-high six straight games and in 10 of his past 11 contests.