Goal By St. Louis Seals Tampa Bay Win, 2-1
Marty St. Louis converted a pass from Vincent Lecavalier; as they skated in alone on the Atlanta goaltender with just 26 seconds remaining in overtime, to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 win over the Thrashers in front of 16,223 enthusiastic fans at the St. Pete Times Forum tonight.
There was nothing pre-season about the manner in which the Lightning played period one, skating hard, firing the puck from all angles and checking aggressively enough to limit the Thrashers to four shots on net to Tampa Bay’s 13. Atlanta did not generate their first shot on Lightning starting netminder Mike Smith until more than five minutes had elapsed in the period.
Tampa Bay forward Zenon Konopka set the tone when he tangled with Josh Gratton of the Thrashers just three seconds after the puck dropped to start the game. The rough stuff didn’t end there as sixteen minutes in penalty time was assessed before 25 seconds of play was in the books.
Smith, who enjoyed a relatively uneventful first stanza, could have faced his first test at the 10:53 mark of the period when Ryan Craig was whistled for tripping, but the Tampa Bay penalty killers held Atlanta to only one shot, which came just one second prior to the expiration of the Atlanta power play.
Despite dominating the play, the Lightning didn’t get on the scoreboard until their third power play of the period as Ryan Malone, planted in front of the Atlanta net, deflected a blast from Kurtis Foster passed Thrasher goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. Vincent Lecavalier also was credited with an assist on the goal.
Atlanta worked their way back into the game in period two, outshooting Tampa Bay 15 - 7 and tying the game 1-1 on a goal by Thrasher defenseman Paul Postma at 9:10 of the period.
Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis teamed up for the Lightning ’s best scoring opportunity of the stanza when Lecavalier feathered the puck perfectly to St. Louis breaking down through the slot. Pavelec was able to get his right pad on the shot to make the save.
The end of the second period marked the end of Smith’s night work in the Lightning net. He finished with 18 saves on 19 shots and also took it upon himself to launch two of his patented long clearing passes while Tampa Bay was on the penalty kill.
Rookie netminder Dustin Tokarski entered game in goal to start the third period, his first NHL action.
The Lightning had an excellent scoring chance with only 90 seconds gone in the final period but Steven Stamkos shot wide of the net after gathering in a perfect pass from St. Louis in front of the Atlanta net.
Tokarski was tested at 15:49 when he used his glove to deflect away a shot on a breakaway from Gratton. He came up big again moments later with a glove save on a wrist shot by Thrasher forward Dan Fritsche from the right faceoff circle.
With just over eight minutes remaining in regulation, the Lightning came up with three outstanding scoring opportunities in succession. First Stamkos then Lecavalier and finally Stephane Veilleux were each denied by Pavelec from point-blank range.
Konopka and Gratton were back for round two when they battered each other in a prolonged fight at center ice at 13:29. Both participants landed thumping right hand punches before the officials finally stepped in to put a halt to the proceedings.
For the second time in as many pre-season games, the Lightning advanced to the four-on-four overtime period, and they were handed a golden opportunity when Thrasher defenseman Nathan Oystrick was sent to the penalty box at 1:26 overtime. Just seconds later, Atlanta forward Jim Slater was sent off for delay of game.
And then the balance of power suddenly shifted as the penalty on Oystrick expired and, as he stepped back on the ice, he collected a loose puck and broke in alone on the Lightning net. Tokarski nabbed the wrist shot under his arm and held on.
“With 20 seconds or so left, I was figuring we were going to the shootout,” Tokarski said.
And the crowd thought the same, until Lecavalier stole the puck on the Lightning blueline, flipped it to center ice and collected it himself. Suddenly, it was only Lecavalier and St. Louis, alone in front of Pavelec, with Stamkos bearing down on the left side as the trailer.
Lecavalier backhanded a pass to St. Louis and St. Louis deked the Thrasher netminder out of position and backhanded the puck into the net for the win.
“It was a great play by Lecavalier,” St. Louis said. “We’ve screwed up 2 on 0 breakaways before, so it was nice we were able to get this one.”
The crowd agreed.
Forward Ryan Malone led all players with six hits…for the second consecutive pre-season game, rookie defenseman Victor Hedman led all Lightning players in time on ice with 27:04…St. Louis and Stamkos each had four shots on net to lead Tampa Bay…in his press conference after the game, Coach Rick Tocchet had praise for forward Stephane Veilleux, who skated on the wing with Lecavalier and Tanguay for much of the game. “He (Veilleux) had some jump, he was hustling,” Tocchet said. “He did a good job.”…a total of 20 penalties were handed out to both teams for a combined 60 minutes of penalty time…the Lightning play the next five pre-season games on the road and don’t return to the St. Pete Times Forum until their home opener October 8th against the New Jersey Devils.
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