Lightning Finish Panthers, 6-4
St. Louis, Malone, Lecavalier Key Third Consecutive Win
With their highest offensive output of the season, the Tampa Bay Lightning stretched their winning streak to three, defeating the Florida Panthers tonight in the St. Pete Times Forum, 6-4.
It was two nights, two games and two wins as Tampa Bay took care of both ends of the home-and-home series with their cross-state rivals.
The Lightning set a high-energy pace from the outset, with Evengy Artyukhin collecting two shots and a hit within the first 30 seconds of the contest.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring at 7:06 when defenseman Matt Smaby
, called up from Norfolk earlier in the day, blasted a shot from the point that slowly slid between the pads of Panther netminder Tomas Vokoun. Steven Stamkos
, hanging alone to Vokoun’s right, got enough momentum on the loose puck to push it over the goal line for his fourth goal of the season. Smaby’s assist on the score was his first NHL point. Jussi Jokinen also assisted on the goal.
Just past the midway point of the period the Panthers were on the receiving end of multiple penalties, including two simultaneous infractions, for slashing and unsportsmanlike conduct, called on Gregory Campbell and, 79 seconds later, an interference call whistled against Nick Boynton. The Lightning made them pay on the 5 on 3 two-man advantage that resulted, when Artyukhin redirected a shot from Mark Recchi past Vokoun at 14:03. The goal was Artyukhin’s second in as many games and was his third on the season. Jokinen also picked up his second assist on the night as Tampa Bay went up 2-0.
The Bolts closed out the period with a 21 to 3 shot advantage and an overwhelming 10-2 lead in scoring chances.
As the second period began, it appeared that Tampa Bay would continue to dominate the play until Panther forward David Booth stole the puck in front of the Lightning net and beat Tampa Bay netminder Mike Smith
at 3:09 to cut the Lightning lead to 2-1.
The Lightning returned the favor less than two minutes later when Vincent Lecavalier
broke in alone on Vokoun, lifted a backhand shot that was blocked, but picked up his own rebound and deposited in the Panther net to re-establish a two-goal lead. The goal was Lecavalier’s 13th of the season, with Martin St. Louis
and Ryan Malone
receiving credit for the assists.
Next it was Tampa Bay’s turn to collect the penalties as Matt Smaby
and Paul Ranger were called for interference and tripping, respectively, 23 seconds apart. Given the opportunity, Florida roared back to tie the game when Nathan Horton scored, followed 26 seconds later by David Booth’s second goal of the game.
The scoring for the second period wasn’t over yet. With only six seconds remaining Lecavalier beat Vokoun from the slot for his second goal of the game and his team-leading 14th of the season. Just as with his previous goal, St. Louis and Malone collected the assists.
If the Panthers were thinking about a comeback similar to the one they put together Friday night in Sunrise, when they came back from a two-goal deficit to send the game to overtime and eventually a shootout, Ryan Malone
’s eighth goal of the season, coming a 4:42 of the third period, made the mountain that much steeper to climb. Malone actually had the puck roll of his stick blade as he broke down the slot on Vokoun, but he spun around, found the puck and backhanded it into the net. St. Louis collected his third assist of the game on the play, along with an assist for Paul Ranger.
“Right now we’re a desperate team,” Malone said. “We need those two points every night. We’re putting the pucks on net and crashing the net and tonight we got rewarded for that.”
There were more rewards to come, however, as Lecavalier, accompanied by St. Louis, carried the puck into the Panther zone on a 2 on 1. St. Louis took the cross-ice pass and fired wide of the net, but the rebound bounced right off the boards and back onto St. Louis’s stick. This time he didn’t miss, notching goal number thirteen on the season and his fourth point of the game. For St. Louis it was his first four-point game since December 7, 2006 against Atlanta.
“The pass was slightly behind me,” St. Louis explained. “I just tried to put it on the net – I kept an eye on it and the rebound came right to me.”
Lecavalier collected his third point of the game and Malone also totaled four points on the night with the assists.
Stephen Weiss managed to get a late goal for Florida, but there would be no comeback on this night as Smith put away the win, stopping 25 of 29 shots.
Tampa Bay pounded the Panther net with a total of 42 shots and out-hit Florida, 23 to 17.
“I’m a big believer in even-keel,” interim coach Rick Tocchet said, “Yeah, it’s nice to win, but it’s back to work.”
For the last three games in a row, at least, the work has been rewarded.
|Three star selections
||MARTIN ST. LOUIS