Consider it fitting that on the night the Lightning looked to put together their first three-game win streak of the season, their three star forwards made it happen.
Unfortunately for Montreal, so did the goaltender.
Tampa Bay won for the seventh time in its last nine home contests, defeating Montreal 3-0 on Wednesday, while climbing to within just one point out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“I think it was important for us to play this style and to play the way we played today against a team that’s ahead of us in the standings,” Lightning head coach Rick Tocchet said. “We all talk about the playoffs, so the reaction of the players is a very encouraging thing for us. They answered the bell tonight with the way they played. Certain individuals rose to the occasion.”
The tally marked St. Louis’ fourth point in his last five, while Stamkos has scored in three straight.
Antero Niittymaki stopped all 33 shots faced, earning his third consecutive victory and his fifth career shutout. The Lightning net minder has gone 2-0-0 with a .986 save percentage and a 0.50 goals-against average in two games this season against Montreal.
“[The shutout] means nothing to me,” Niittymaki said. “I’m not a guy who’s going to have a lot of shutouts, but I’ll take the two points. These are all big games. We all understand that, and we were ready to play.”
Montreal, meanwhile, dropped its fourth of five games on the road in 2010, while losing five of seven overall.
“We need to have more of an attack,” Montreal head coach Jacques Martin said. “It’s disappointing for sure, especially after the trip here in December. We just have to regroup and get ready for Saturday’s game.”
St. Louis opened scoring at 9:50 by capitalizing on a Montreal turnover in its own defensive zone that allowed Downie to steal the puck and feed to the Lightning winger for a 1-0 lead.
Lecavalier extended the cushion at the beginning of the second with his 14th of the season, shooting the puck between his legs past Montreal goaltender Carey Price.
Tampa Bay, however, was just getting started.
Stamkos, who entered the contest tied for first place in the NHL with 24 points with the man advantage, scored his 11th power play goal that proved to be the clincher, as the Bolts remained undefeated on their current home stand. Defenseman Kurtis Foster recorded his 100th career point with an assist on the goal.
“The third period was an enjoyable one for the coaches,” Tocchet added. “The guys all did the right things. They played for each other and they played for Niitty [Niittymaki]. We didn’t cheat, we didn’t try to make it 4-0, but you always want to try and score, and we did it the right way. It was nice to see the consistency from the guys. Hopefully that’s a corner we can turn.”
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.