Martin St. Louis continued the chase to break his personal season-high point streak on Saturday.
The Lightning winger, who entered the contest with a point in eight consecutive games, extended the mark to nine with a third period goal, albeit in a hard-fought 4-1 loss to the Flyers at the Wachovia Center. St. Louis’ previous stretch spanned an entire month, from the season-opener on Oct. 3 to Oct. 31, in which he recorded a point in 11 straight.
Tampa Bay, meanwhile, has won five of its last nine.
St. Louis put the Bolts on the board with seven minutes remaining in regulation after lifting a shot over Philadelphia goaltender Michael Leighton to cut a two-goal deficit in half. Steve Downie tallied his fourth point in as many games with an assist on the goal.
Antero Niittymaki, making his first start for Tampa Bay since Dec. 18, stopped 28 of 31 shots and held the Flyers to just one goal through the first two periods. The Lightning net minder also made a series of spectacular saves, including one early in the second period in which he sprawled across the crease to prevent the Flyers’ Jeff Carter from extending the lead.
Claude Giroux opened scoring on the power play at 13:10 to give Philadelphia a one-goal advantage, while extending the team’s streak of recording the game’s first goal to nine consecutive games.
“I think it starts with we can’t give them so many penalties. They had three power plays up to that point and even when they don’t score, it tilts the ice a little bit,” Lightning center Jeff Halpen said. “We’ve done a pretty good job recently of killing penalties, but that [the Flyers’ goal] was a pretty good play.”
Philadelphia has won three in a row.
Steven Stamkos nearly knotted the game at one apiece halfway through the middle frame on a solid scoring chance, but Leighton made a glove save that kept the game at 1-0.
Scott Hartnell snapped an 18-game goalless drought as he put Philadelphia up by a pair, finishing off a 2-on-1 odd man rush at 3:36 in the third period. Chris Pronger tallied an assist on the goal, good for his seventh point in four games.
After St. Louis brought the Bolts within one, Blair Betts regained the Flyers’ two-goal lead on a rebound chance at 16:55 before icing the game with an empty-netter just under three minutes later to give Philadelphia its seventh win in its last nine tries.
“I think we know they’re a strong club. They’ve had a great year so we have to prepare to the utmost degree and bring our best game to the ice,” Bolts defenseman Matt Walker said. “We haven’t played our best against them, but we have to learn to win the games that are tight. There are going to be lots of nights when the score is 1-0, or 2-0, and you have to stay in it the whole time. Teams like this don’t go away.”
Walker returned to action for the first time since Dec. 18 after battling a lower body injury, as did Jeff Halpern who had missed the previous five games.
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