TAMPA, Fla. – For his first National Hockey League victory Karri Ramo matched his saves to the number on the back of his jersey. Stopping 31 shots in his first NHL start Ramo led the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 win against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday night.
Scoring with 41.6 seconds remaining in the contest, Vincent Lecavalier notched his fifth game-winner of the season to give the Lightning their 12th victory in 19 games at the St. Pete Times Forum. Lecavalier added an assist in the contest as Jason Ward also scored for Tampa Bay.
|Martin St. Louis skates to congratulate Vincent Lecavalier after getting an assist on Lecavalier's game-winning goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007, at the St. Pete Times Forum. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)|
Early in the contest Ward tested Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala with a shot to the right of the net. After Paul Ranger picked the puck off of Jason Blake in the Maple Leafs’ zone, the Lightning defenseman passed ahead to Vaclav Prospal. Prospal fed the puck down low to Ward for the re-directed shot, but Toskala got his pads on the attempt.
Midway through the period Lecavalier looked to open the scoring as he cut to the front of the net after carrying the puck down the right wing. Lecavalier moved to the backhand, but Pavel Kubina swiped the puck away before it reached Toskala.
The Toronto netminder continued to hold off the Lightning, getting a glove on a Lecavalier slap shot before stopping a Martin St. Louis rebound attempt with a pad save. Toskala later dove to make a save after a puck deflected to Jan Hlavac in the left faceoff circle, rolling on to his back to stop the shot.
Ramo responded at the opposite end of the ice, catching a hard shot by Mats Sundin from the right faceoff circle. The Lightning goalie later gloved the puck at the left side of his net after Wade Belak took a back-handed shot from the bottom of the right faceoff circle.
Following a scoreless first period, Hlavac and Lecavalier began the second with an odd-man rush. As the pair broke into the zone, Hlavac passed the puck back to Lecavalier at the right of Toskala. Lecavalier re-directed the shot on net, but Toskala made a pad save on the play.
Moments later Ramo stopped Tomas Kaberle at the side of the net. Gaining control of a rebound from a shot in the slot, Kaberle put the puck on Ramo but was denied by a right skate save.
Despite the save, a deflected puck found the back of the net against Ramo to give Toronto a 1-0 lead late in the second period. After making a save on an Alexander Steen shot from the right faceoff circle, Ramo directed the puck into the side boards. Matt Stajan threw a shot on net from along the left boards and the puck deflected off a handful of players before sneaking past Ramo’s left glove side.
A little more than two minutes later Ward tied the game with his fifth goal of the season. As Lecavalier carried the puck across the blue line, Ward skated up the slot. Lecavalier passed across to Ward where he flicked a wrist shot to beat Toskala high to the left glove side.
“After Karri [Ramo] made a great save at the one end, it just came back the other way and Vinny [Lecavalier had the puck wide,” Ward said. “He’s got great patience with the puck, so I knew he saw me and I just tried to get myself into a scoring area.”
Tying the game at one with 79 seconds remaining in the frame, Ward posted his second goal in consecutive games. Ward has posted goals in consecutive games three times in his career, most recently in back-to-back games from October 24-25 this season.
Ramo continued to hold off Toronto through the contest, getting his blocker down and his pads out to stop Boyd Devereaux and Stajan as they banged at the puck in front of the crease.
The Lightning goaltender later held off a shot by Sundin off the wing before denying Nik Antropov in front of the net. As Antropov tried to knock in a rebounded puck, Ramo swatted the shot out of the crease with his stick.
With the game closing in on overtime, Kubina broke his stick on a shot in the Toronto zone. St. Louis picked up the puck for a late odd-man rush that set up the winning play.
After having a shot deflected on its way to the net, St. Louis collected the puck at the left side boards. St. Louis fed the puck down to Lecavalier at the bottom of the right faceoff circle where the Lightning center leaned into a shot that beat Toskala low between the left skate and the post.
|Goalie Karri Ramo comes out of the net to stop a shot on goal by Toronto Maple Leafs left wing Jason Blake on Thursday, Dec. 20, 2007, in Tampa, FL. (AP Photo/Steve Nesius)|
With his points in the contest Lecavalier extended his lead as the NHL’s top scorer with 53 points (23 goals, 30 assists) through 35 games. Lecavalier has recorded points in eight consecutive home games, totaling 16 points (seven goals, nine assists) in that span.
The game marked Lecavalier’s 20th multi-point night of the season.
With his victory Ramo became the first rookie and the sixth netminder in Lightning history to win his starting debut with the club. Most recently Marc Denis won his first start with Tampa Bay, posting a 3-2 victory in last season’s opening night match-up against the Atlanta Thrashers on October 5, 2006.
“I just tried my best and we were good enough today to get a win,” Ramo said. “I felt good there and I felt I had a couple of good saves, and we got some momentum with them.”
Ramo faced 32 shots in the contest as the Maple Leafs out-shot the Lightning 32-21. Both teams were held scoreless through three power play opportunities.
“They got a lucky bounce on the first [goal], and to come back with a big goal I think was very key,” Ward said. “They out-shot us in the third, but I think we still played well and we found a way to win. That’s the bottom line.”
The Lightning closes out their two-game stand at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday, December 22 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) against the Carolina Hurricanes. The game marks the fifth of eight meetings, the third of four at Tampa Bay, between the clubs this season.
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