The Lightning didn’t need much offense on Saturday, not with the way goaltender Mike Smith has been playing.
They got some anyway, in front of a season-high record crowd of 20, 109 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Tampa Bay, winners of five out of its last seven, got a goal in each period from Martin St. Louis, Zenon Konopka and Steve Downie, while Smith earned his 50th career win in net with 25 saves on 26 shots against.
The Bolts net minder has gone unbeaten in five out of his last six games, including four wins.
“Our goaltending has been really good this year,” St. Louis said. “I think Smitty [Smith] gave us a chance to win the game. It’s big. We dug ourselves in a bit of a hole there on the road, but this home stand has been big for us so we’ve been pleased with the way we’ve responded.”
Pittsburgh, meanwhile, tied its longest losing streak of the season at four.
“We’re not executing,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “And we’re paying the price for it. I think we’ve got a group that has a lot of character and pride in the game, but our focus has to be on executing.”
The Bolts eliminated all four of Pittsburgh’s opposing power play chances, extending their streak of consecutive penalty kills to 15. Tampa Bay has not allowed an opposing goal with the man advantage since Dec. 23 against Philadelphia.
St. Louis wasted no time in putting the game’s first tally on the board, slipping one past Pens goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury just 63 seconds into the opening period.
The goal was the Lightning winger’s 10th point in his last seven games. He stands just three goals shy of 250 for his career and was honored as the contest’s first star.
“I thought we played a pretty good game all the way through. We didn’t have too many letdowns, which sometimes makes it harder on ourselves to win games,” St. Louis added.
Pittsburgh’s Bill Guerin erased a one-goal deficit as the first period came to a close, gathering a rebound off Jordan Staal’s wrister from the right circle to knot the game heading into the middle frame.
After recording his first goal since Dec. 14, 2005 nearly two weeks ago against Philadelphia, Konopka netted the game-winner with his second of the season that broke a 1-1 tie at 14:26 in the second to regain the Bolts’ one-goal lead.
“He [Zenon] is a person that if he plays two or 20 minutes, he is always cheering on the team,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “What he did was show huge leadership. For him to score a goal in a playoff-type game was huge for us.”
Downie, who appeared in his 100th NHL career game, iced the contest in the third with a wrist shot off a rebound from the right hash marks. Defenseman Mattias Ohlund recorded an assist on the goal, his second of the game, tying a season-high. Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier also tallied a helper, marking his eighth over the last seven games.
“We played a different game tonight. Our best players played too,” Konopka said. “They led us, and they led us in the right direction. It’s one of those things where you never know where the turning point is. Something could be said, or something could happen, on or off the ice, but I think we’re coming closer together as a group.”
tampabaylightning.com is the official Web site of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Tampa Bay Lightning and tampabaylightning.com are trademarks of Lightning Hockey L.P. NHL, the NHL Shield, the word mark and image of the Stanley Cup and NHL Conference logos are registered trademarks of the National Hockey League. All NHL logos and marks and NHL team logos and marks as well as all other proprietary materials depicted herein are the property of the NHL and the respective NHL teams and may not be reproduced without the prior written consent of NHL Enterprises, L.P. Copyright © 1999-2013 Lightning Hockey, L.P. and the National Hockey League. All Rights Reserved.