In a game that featured the two Rocket Richard Trophy co-winners from last season, it was the Lady Byng recipient who stole the show and wooed a raucous crowd of 17,226 at the St. Pete Times Forum Wednesday night.
Just when it seemed as if the Pittsburgh Penguins would cruise to an easy victory against the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning, Martin St. Louis suddenly gave them everything they asked for, and then some.
After surrendering a 3-1 first-period lead, Pittsburgh gave up two goals to St. Louis, including the game-winner at 6:40 in the final period, as the Lightning earned a come-from-behind 5-3 victory much to the delight of the home crowd as well as their head coach.
“I think we’re always coming back,” Tampa Bay Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “Whether we’re trailing by one, two, sometimes even three, that’s a trademark of our game that we have. I think that’s a tribute to the character on the players we have on this team.”
Dana Tyrell registered his first career NHL goal, Vincent Lecavalier notched his third of the season and Teddy Purcell also scored for Tampa Bay, who has gained points in four of its last five games at home.
Pittsburgh, 4-1-1 in its last six, got goals from Craig Adams and Matt Cooke. Pascal Dupuis added a third goal midway through the first.
“You’ve got to give them credit,” Pittsburgh defenseman Brooks Orpik said. “All four lines, all six defensemen played really hard for them.”
Dan Ellis made 24 saves on as many shots in relief of Mike Smith and Tampa Bay tied a season-high record with 20 blocked shots en route to earning its NHL-best 13th point and maintaining its position atop the Southeast Division standings.
“Dan Ellis played great,” Boucher added. “I think he made a lot of shots look easy and he was right there in front of it.”
Pittsburgh negated Tyrell’s game-opening goal with a pair of shorthanded scores. Cooke sent a pass to Adams, who tied the game with a wrist shot past Smith at 3:28, before giving the Penguins a one-goal lead just 1:01 later.
Dupuis made it 3-1 with a backhand past Smith, who was then replaced after allowing three goals on seven shots.
“It’s too bad for Smitty because he hadn’t lost a game,” Boucher said. “It was his first outing when things really didn’t go his way.”
Tampa Bay cut the deficit in half at 16:40. Pavel Kubina fed a pass to Purcell, who spotted up on the left circle and beat goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury with his first of the season with a shot to the near post.
Lecavalier tied the game to open the second period, finding a loose puck in front of the net and converting with the man advantage. Sean Bergenheim had a chance to re-gain Tampa Bay’s lead, but was stopped by Fleury on a penalty shot after drawing a penalty on a breakaway opportunity.
“When we were there, we just had to keep pushing because we battled back,” St. Louis said. “We never feel like we are out of a game. Tonight was an exciting game and I’m sure that it was an exciting game for the fans too.”
St. Louis recorded a career-high nine shots on goal for the second straight game and Steven Stamkos also notched three assists on the night.
Steve Downie made a spectacular play that helped put Tampa Bay up 4-3 at 6:40 in the final period. The Lightning winger corralled a puck along the boards and zipped a pass to St. Louis, who brought the puck up past center ice and through the right circle before sending a shot past a diving Fleury.
He added his second of the night, an empty-netter which capped the scoring at 18:29 in the final frame.
“My two players of the game were Marty and Vinny,” Boucher said. “The ‘inferno duo’ has done it again, like it has done so many times in the past. In moments like this, you look at your leadership and they were there.”
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