TAMPA, Fla. (AP) - Dmitry Afanasenkov and the Tampa Bay Lightning made a big playoff push Thursday night - at the Atlanta Thrashers' expense.
Afanasenkov scored two goals to help the Lightning beat the Thrashers 4-3 on Thursday night, leaving ninth-place Atlanta seven points out of the final Eastern Conference playoff spot with 10 games left.
With the victory, Tampa Bay remained tied with New Jersey and Montreal for sixth place in the Eastern Conference with 83 points. On Thursday night, New Jersey beat Buffalo 3-1 and Montreal edged Washington 3-2 in overtime.
"Right now, time is running out," Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. "We don't have any points to give to anyone. We will need some great performances from everyone."
Tim Taylor and Paul Ranger also scored for the Lightning. Taylor snapped a 28-game goal-scoring drought, and Ranger's goal was the first of his 67-game NHL career.
Tampa Bay goalie John Grahame's bid for his third shutout against Atlanta this season ended when Steve McCarthy scored from the blue line with 9:16 left. Vyacheslav Kozlov and Bobby Holik added goals for the Thrashers in the final 2 minutes.
"We have to take care of our business," Kozlov said. "We have to play much better and we have to win our games. Then we'll see what happens."
Tampa Bay played without defensemen Dan Boyle (ankle) and Pavel Kubina (lower body), and left winger Fredrik Modin, second on the team with 29 goals, also sat out because of a groin injury.
"We're going through a tough time here with injuries," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "This situation, things piled up. Three main guys on our team all together. I really respect how our team stayed together and played a game as a team."
Kari Lehtonen made 29 saves for the Thrashers.
Afanasenkov, who had the second multigoal game of his career, put the Lightning ahead 1-0 from the low left circle at 6:07 of the first.
The Lightning went ahead 2-0 on Afanasenkov's rebound power-play goal at 16:24 of the second, and Taylor gave Tampa Bay a three-goal lead 27 seconds later.
Tampa Bay had the first four power plays. Atlanta, which entered with the NHL's second-best road power play, got its only chance with 2:18 left in the second.
Ranger made it 4-0 with 11:56 to go. After Kozlov scored with 1:39 remaining, Holik got Atlanta to 4-3 at 19:08.
"They came at us the whole game," Atlanta defenseman Greg de Vries said. "The only reason we came back at the end is because they finally sat back and tried to protect the lead, and that's when they got in trouble."
Grahame made 19 saves.
"I don't like finishing a game that way," Tortorella said. "I'm not getting on my team at all. They played hard. They played really well."
Notes: Lightning G Sean Burke served as the backup after missing the previous six games with a broken finger. ... Richards picked up two assists and has a career-high 81 points. He has 12 assists and 14 points during a seven-game point streak. ... Lehtonen appeared in his 24th consecutive game, which set a team record for goalies. Pasi Nurminen played in 23 straight games in 2004. ... Tampa Bay sent G Gerald Coleman to Springfield of the AHL. ... Lightning LW Chris Dingman assisted on Taylor's goal for his first point in 37 games.
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.