TAMPA, Fla. – Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis each recorded one goal and one assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning converted two of five power play opportunities to win their third consecutive game on Thursday night. Facing off against the Carolina Hurricanes for the fourth time this season, the Lightning skated to a 2-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Improving to 11-3-1 on home ice, Tampa Bay won their third game against Carolina this season. Goaltender Johan Holmqvist made 23 saves to post the victory for the Lightning.
Although the clubs skated through a scoreless first period the Lightning pressured Carolina and netminder Cam Ward, posting 27 shots through the first two frames.
Early in the contest Lecavalier tried to bang in a shot at the side of the net, but Ward covered the puck on the play. Moments later Chris Gratton moved the puck to Jason Ward as he skated down the right side, firing a shot that Cam Ward caught with a glove save.
After defenseman Tim Gleason fired a shot off the crossbar on a breakaway, Lecavalier responded with a late chance for Tampa Bay. Taking a pass at the point Lecavalier skated into the zone for a slap shot attempt, but Ward kicked out his left pad for the save.
Shane O’Brien and Andrew Ladd kicked off the middle frame by dropping the gloves for a fight three seconds into the period. O’Brien landed a handful of punches in what was his third fight of the season.
Shortly after the play Lecavalier looked to one-time a St. Louis drop pass in the offensive zone, but Ward closed his pads on the shot. At the opposite end of the ice Holmqvist responded with a right kick save on Cory Stillman as the former Lightning winger fired a shot through traffic in the slot.
With Rod Brind’Amour serving a minor for tripping, Tampa Bay came within inches of scoring before Lecavalier netted his 19th goal of the season.
Early in the power play St. Louis fired a shot off the right side boards that beat Ward through the right stick-side arm. Keeping the shot from crossing the goal line, Ray Whitney reached into the crease to clear the puck on the play.
Despite the save, Lecavalier converted the power play opportunity with four minutes remaining in the period to give the Lightning the lead. Controlling a cross-ice feed by Brad Richards at the right faceoff circle, Lecavalier fired a shot high to the glove side.
As the Hurricanes looked to tie the contest on a later power play, Holmqvist dove to get a piece of a shot by Justin Williams before denying a pair of follow-up attempts by Cory Stillman. After swatting the puck out of the crease on a Stillman shot through traffic, Holmqvist went on to cover a stuff-in attempt by the Hurricanes winger at the side of the crease. Players from both teams fell into the net and pushed it off its moorings, helping the Lightning skate into the third period with a one-goal lead.
A little past the midpoint of the final frame St. Louis connected for his 10th goal of the season as the Hurricanes tried to skate off a bench minor for too many men on the ice. Firing a shot from the blue line, St. Louis beat Ward high to the stick side with 7:15 remaining in the contest.
Although Holmqvist denied a shot by Stillman late in the contest, the Carolina forward connected late in the game for his 16th goal of the season.
As the period started to wind down Stillman fired a hard shot from the left faceoff dot. Holmqvist made a glove save to hold off the attempt, but Stillman tipped a David Tanabe shot from the point with 13.2 seconds remaining in the contest to deny the Lightning netminder’s shutout bid.
“It was a good tip by them and it went in,” Holmqvist said. “I didn’t really care as long as we win the game. That was key for us tonight, to have a strong third period and have a victory.”
Posting his sixth career victory (6-2-0) against the Hurricanes, including his third this season, Holmqvist made 23 saves for the win. Tampa Bay out-shot Carolina 32-24 in the game, including 27-14 through the first 40 minutes of play.
“I thought we did a very good job defensively, [on] some of the things we’ve been trying to improve on,” head coach John Tortorella said. “When they had chances, [Holmqvist] was just fantastic.”
Lecavalier led all skaters with seven shots on goal, extending his lead as the Lightning’s top scorer against the Hurricanes this season. Through four games the Tampa Bay center has recorded six goals and five assists, totaling 51 career points (22 goals, 29 assists) against Carolina. The game marked Lecavalier’s 50th career match-up against the Hurricanes.
Through four games this season Tampa Bay has out-scored Carolina 16-7. The Lightning improved to 3-1-0 against the Hurricanes this season, and have won eight of the previous 10 match-ups between the teams at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The win gives Tampa Bay their third winning streak of three or more games on home ice this season.
“I think what has helped us here the past little while, at least in this homestand, is our pressure up-ice,” Tortorella said. “That’s something we really try to concentrate on, and playing away from the puck – getting it back sooner instead of always playing in your end zone.”
Tampa Bay held Carolina off the board through five power play opportunities while going 2-for-5 with the man advantage. The Hurricanes entered the contest with the league’s fifth-ranked power play.
Closing out a four-game home stand, the Lightning face off against the New York Islanders on Saturday, November 8 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE). The game marks the second of two meetings between the clubs, including the first of two at the St. Pete Times Forum, this season.
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