Lightning forwards have been backing up Mike Smith this year by scoring goals. Friday’s 5-1 win over the Rangers was no exception. And this time, the Lightning goaltender returned the favor.
The Lightning received a goal each from Steven Stamkos, Steve Downie, Paul Szczechura, and two from and Kurtis Foster, who tied a career-high. Foster’s last two-goal game came against Nashville on Nov. 19, 2005.
“There were a lot of guys who just weren’t happy with the [Nov. 25] game against Toronto,” Foster said. “We came out flat and didn’t play the way we wanted to. We wanted to bring our ‘A’ game tonight, and I thought the guys worked hard and we got the win.”
In his first start since Nov. 21 at Carolina, Smith recorded 26 saves on 27 shots against and inched one game closer to achieving his 50th career win.
“It was a really good game I think that was the best 60-minute hockey game we played all season. As a group, every five-man unit went out there and did what they were supposed to do. We limited their chances to a few,” Smith said. “That’s what we have to do in every hockey game, or try to do. If we play like that we’re going to win a lot of hockey games.”
Stamkos opened scoring with his team-leading 16th goal of the season at 6:44 in the first period.
The goal marked Stamkos’ second in three games, while Martin St. Louis, credited for the feed on the goal, extended his consecutive-game point streak to six with his first of three assists on the night. St. Louis was named the game’s first star, repeating a performance from the Lightning’s 4-3 overtime victory at Atlanta on Nov. 22 in which he also recorded three assists.
“I think everybody backed each other up whenever it got physical. We really played together as a whole tonight in every facet of the game,” St. Louis said.
Foster fired a shot from the top of the left point to put the Lightning up 2-0 just before the horn sounded heading into the middle frame. He later added the clincher at 8:24 in the third after Steve Downie and Paul Szczechura added to the Lightning lead. Szczechura’s netter was his first of the season, coming just eight games after being recalled from AHL Norfolk.
“It was a really solid effort from everybody. There was a lot of energy tonight,” Bolts head coach Rick Tocchet said. “You could tell that there was a lot of bounce in a lot of guys’ steps.”
The Rangers finally tallied the score sheet and prevented Smith’s first shutout of the season with a late goal at 17:53 from Ryan Callahan.
“You can try and pick it apart, but I’m not going to dissect the hockey game. We were simply outplayed, from the top line right on through the goaltender,” Rangers head coach John Tortorella said in his return to Tampa. “It was a team effort tonight. We can sit here and talk about combinations and this and that, but we were simply outplayed from the beginning of the game right on through.”
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