Lightning Open Road Swing In Style
Defeat Atlanta 4-1, Behind Two St. Louis Goals
The Tampa Bay Lightning started their 10 day, five-game road trip in good style tonight, stopping the Atlanta Thrashers, 4-1.
The Lightning went about their business in a determined fashion, opening the scoring at 2:48 of the first period when defenseman Steve Eminger netted a power play goal from the point on the first Lightning shot of the game. The goal, Eminger’s third of the season, was assisted by Jussi Jokinen and Adam Hall
, making his tenth consecutive start in the net for the Lightning, was equal to all seven shots he faced in the first period. The Lightning had 13 shots on Thrasher netminder Kari Lehtonen.
The Lightning nursed their one goal advantage into the second period and Smith made several outstanding saves early in the stanza, especially against Vyacheslav Kozlov and Jim Slater, to maintain the 1-0 lead until Tampa bay picked up the pace, late in the period.
At the 16:20 mark of the period, Tampa Bay broke through again as Vincent Lecavalier
faked a slapshot before sliding the puck cross-ice to Martin St. Louis
. St. Louis’s goal, his 14th of the season, opened the Lightning lead to 2-0. Vaclav Prospal was also awarded an assist.
As the period ended, Thrasher defenseman Tobias Enstrom was sent off for tripping, and he remained in the box as the third period began. Skating with the man advantage sixty seconds into the third period, St. Louis collected his second goal of the night and 15th of the season when he took a pass from Prospal behind the Atlanta net and beat Lehtonen. The score extended the Lightning lead to 3-0 and was the second power play goal of the night for Tampa Bay.
With less than two minutes remaining in the game, Ryan Malone
issued an insurance goal, his tenth of the season, when he knocked home his own rebound. Jeff Halpern and Vladimir Mihakik got credit for the assists.
At the other end of the ice, Smith continued to thwart every scoring attempt by the Thrashers, including two acrobatic saves on shots by Ilya Kovalchuk. He lost his shutout bid when Erik Christensen scored with only 21.2 seconds remaining.
“I wanted to get the shutout for Smitty,” Tampa Bay interim coach Rick Tocchet said.
But it didn’t seem to bother Smith, who was pleased with the win.
“It didn’t matter,” said Smith, who finished with 27 saves. “The win is what’s important; a shutout is just a bonus.”
For the Lightning, there was a lot to like as they outshot Atlanta 35 – 28, and went 2-4 on the power play, a spot they have wanted to improve of late. Additionally, the victory moved the Bolts one point ahead of the Thrashers in the Southeast Division. They can now focus on overtaking The Florida Panthers, eight points ahead in the standings.
The team flies west now; there are four more road games ahead and one win is under their belt. Up next are three travel and rest days before the Bolts lace up their skates against the Phoenix Coyotes, Thursday night.
|Three star selections
||MARTIN ST. LOUIS