Tampa Bay Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier hopes his team can continue to extend its consecutive games point streak. With similar performances much like the one Sunday night, there might be no limit to how far they can go.
Lecavalier scored twice, including the game-winner 1:13 into overtime, and Martin St. Louis added two assists as Tampa Bay beat the upstart Atlanta Thrashers 3-2 at Philips Arena.
Tampa Bay has points in eight straight, its longest stretch since February 2004, and won for the ninth consecutive time against Atlanta, who trails the first-place Lightning by three points in the Southeast Division.
“We’ve been playing some pretty good hockey lately, but tonight, after two days off, we played very smart,” Lecavalier said. “It was a huge win for us, but we’ve got to keep pushing and hopefully keep this going.”
Steven Stamkos had a goal for the fourth time in five games for Tampa Bay, 6-0-1 in its last seven games. Dan Ellis improved to 3-0-1 in his last four starts and turned back 26 of 28 shots.
“It feels good right now,” Tampa Bay defenseman Randy Jones said. “It was a little tough to get back to the ice, but we had a good practice this morning before the game and I thought we played pretty strong.”
Atlanta has dropped three straight and five of the last seven, a skid that began with its last meeting against Tampa Bay on Dec. 15.
Zach Bogosian and former Lightning forward Freddy Modin each scored for the Thrashers, who last defeated the Lightning in last season’s opener on Oct. 3 in Atlanta.
Modin erased a one-goal deficit with just over three minutes in regulation, backhanding a rebound past Ellis after the puck was kicked out by the net minder’s pad and onto the stick of the former Lightning wing.
Atlanta, who went 0-for-2 on the power play throughout the night, tried to build on the late momentum after a delay-of-game penalty sent Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman into the penalty box at 18:47 of the third. Tampa Bay, however, killed off the penalty, its last of the night, in order to force the extra session where the Thrashers got into penalty trouble of its own.
With Dustin Byfuglien in the box for a boarding call incurred with just 11 seconds remaining in regulation, Tampa Bay took full advantage.
Lecavalier skated through the right faceoff circle and posted up along the hash marks where St. Louis found him for a chip shot past Ondrej Pavelec to win the game. It was Lecavalier’s fifth point in six games since returning from injury in the last meeting between the two clubs.
“We’ve been playing well, but we want to score even more and play even better,” Lightning forward Sean Bergenheim said. “All and all though, it’s been great.”
Stamkos opened scoring 8:13 into the first, collecting a rebound off of Ryan Malone’s backhand from the right hash marks, and wristing one to the far post past Pavelec to make it 1-0.
Bogosian tied it after ripping a one-timed slap shot past the pad of Ellis at 6:03 in the second, but Lecavalier regained the lead just three minutes later after putting back a rebound into an open net with his first of two on the night.
Tampa Bay has not lost in regulation since Dec. 7 and now has the NHL’s longest active win streak by one team over another.
“When we close those gaps, limit their chances and limit their space, it really works out to our advantage,” Jones added.
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