TAMPA, Fla. – In the fourth round of the shootout Vaclav Prospal came up with his second game-winning goal of the season as the Tampa Bay Lightning skated to a 4-3 victory against the Ottawa Senators on Tuesday night. As the teams met for the first of four meetings, the Lightning skated to their 10th victory in 14 games at the St. Pete Times Forum this season.
Martin St. Louis led the Lightning with two assists in the contest, while Senators captain Daniel Alfredsson led his club with two goals and one assist.
Early in the contest Ottawa’s Dany Heatley looked to connect on a breakaway attempt, but was held off by goaltender Johan Holmqvist at the side of the net. As Heatley tried to make a deke at the top of the crease and move to the backhand, defenseman Filip Kuba held off the Senators winger for Holmqvist to make the save.
At 3:43 of the frame Mathieu Darche opened the scoring with his fourth goal of the season. After Jan Hlavac intercepted a pass by Wade Redden in the slot, the Tampa Bay winger fed Darche with a pass at the side of the net. Darche redirected the pass to the stick side against Ray Emery for the score.
Darche, who has already recorded career highs in goals (four), assists (three) and games played (19), has scored in three consecutive games.
“Obviously it feels good,” Darche said. “I don’t want to get ahead of myself. It’s three games and when you play with good players, it helps.”
Following the score Holmqvist denied Jason Spezza with a glove save. As Spezza skated down the left wing he looked for a snap shot into the top right corner of the net, but Holmqvist grabbed the puck keep the Lightning in the lead.
Minutes later Chris Gratton connected for his fourth goal of the season. Following up a pass by Vincent Lecavalier, St. Louis fed the puck to the front of the net below from the right corner. Positioned at the top of the crease, Gratton banged the shot to the right of Emery.
Gratton entered the contest as the Lightning’s leading scorer against Ottawa. Through 52 career games, Gratton has recorded 11 goals and 30 points.
Late in the period Lecavalier looked for a back-handed attempt at the top of the crease but was unable to beat Emery. Cutting to the front of the net Lecavalier tried to redirect a pass by St. Louis from the left side boards, but Emery played the puck at the top corner of the crease for the save.
Although Alfredsson scored to cut the Lightning lead in half, Kuba responded to re-gain the two-goal edge.
With Kuba serving a minor penalty for hooking, Alfredsson jumped up to the top of the right faceoff circle to control the rebound of a Joe Corvo shot. Alfredsson beat Holmqvist lot to the stick side with a slap shot.
Only 2:03 later Kuba converted a pass by St. Louis for his third goal of the season. With Lecavalier creating a screen in front of the Ottawa net, St. Louis passed back to Kuba in the slot for a shot high to the stick side.
Despite take a 3-1 lead, the Lightning found themselves skating into overtime after the Senators scored twice in a span of 36 seconds late in the game.
After Alfredsson posted his second goal of the contest with a wrist shot from the slot, Redden tied the game with his fourth goal of the season. After Heatley swung at a rebound from an Alfredsson shot, Redden jumped into the play to put the puck past Holmqvist.
Both teams exchanged strong chances in overtime before the game went to the shootout. After Holmqvist made a glove save on Randy Robitaille as he skated hard down the left side, the Senators held off a pair of power play chances by Lecavalier.
Following a faceoff win in the offensive zone, St. Louis gained control of the puck in the corner to feed Lecavalier with a pass in the slot. Lecavalier fired a quick shot that was held by Emery before a slap shot on the following play deflected wide of the net.
In the shootout Brad Richards scored on a wrist shot through the five hole before Prospal placed a wrist shot high to the stick side to claim the win. Holmqvist stopped three of four Ottawa skaters, with Spezza notching the only Senators goal in the shootout.
Coming into the game the Lightning were one of only two teams (Buffalo Sabres) who had yet to skate in a shootout this season.
“It’s a big win for us,” head coach John Tortorella said. “At this time of the year and where we’ve gone… we need to win that one.”
Lecavalier extended his lead as the league’s top scorer, recording his 42nd point (18 goals, 24 assists) of the season.
Holmqvist improved to 10-3-0 at the St. Pete Times Forum this season, posting the decision with 26 saves. Ottawa out-shot Tampa Bay 29-28 in the contest, and Richards led the Lightning with four shots on goal. Emery fell to 4-3-0 against Tampa Bay through seven career starts.
The Lightning have won four of their previous six games on home ice, including the first two of the current four-game home stand. Tampa Bay continues their string of home games on Thursday, December 6 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) against the Carolina Hurricanes. The game marks the fourth of eight meetings between the teams this season.
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