Prior to kicking off an NHL record-tying 12-game home stand on Sunday, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Guy Boucher expressed concern that the long stay at home might cause his players to get too comfortable.
Following Sunday’s performance against the Atlanta Thrashers, he might want to reconsider.
Simon Gagne scored twice, Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos each had goals, and Pavel Kubina, Dana Tyrell and Nate Thompson also tallied for Tampa Bay, which swept the season series over the Thrashers with a 7-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“I think we had a great work ethic from the start,” Boucher said. “I think we were very solid offensively in the first period and we just needed to keep pushing.”
The win was Tampa Bay’s 11th straight victory over its division rival, extending the NHL’s longest active win streak by one team over a single opponent. It completed a six-game sweep of Atlanta, the first in franchise history.
“Sometimes, that’s the way it is,” Gagne said. “For us this year, we’ve had their number.”
Dwayne Roloson made 21 saves to earn his third consecutive victory for the Lightning, winners of four straight and nine of the last 11 at home.
Rich Peverley had the only goal for Atlanta at 15:57 of the third. He sent a shot from the high slot that dipped in front of Roloson before sneaking past him, negating his bid for a 27th career shutout.
“I don’t really care about that one,” Roloson said. “The puck dropped on me. As long as we get the two points, that’s all that matters.”
The Lightning’s record home stand matches only that of the California Seals, who also played in 12 straight at home from November to December of 1975.
Unlike in each of its last three games, all decided by one goal in shootouts, Sunday’s win was a welcomed change. Tampa Bay set a season-high record, scoring five goals in a span of 10:05 to open the second period.
“We lost our composure,” Thrashers head coach Craig Ramsay said. “That just turned everything. We imploded from there, which was disappointing. They smelled blood and attacked.”
First, Tyrell doubled the Lightning lead at 1:56 in the second just 1:42 after Thompson opened the scoring on a shorthanded breakaway 14 seconds into the frame.
Then, the team’s pair of All-Stars took over.
Stamkos, who extended his point streak to six games, was positioned in front of the net when a shot from St. Louis deflected off his hip and into the net, putting Tampa Bay up 3-0 and chasing Pavelec from goal in favor of Peter Mannino.
He didn’t fair well either, surrendering the fourth goal to St. Louis halfway through the period.
Pavelec finished the night with 16 saves on 19 shots, while Mannino stopped 16 of the 20 he faced.
“Everything that could go wrong did go wrong,” Ramsay added.
Atlanta has lost seven of the last eight and was coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers just the night before.
“When you don’t get any rest, you can’t push like that,” Boucher added. “What happened to them today happened to us in Pittsburgh. When you play a game the night before and travel and play again the next day, it’s extremely difficult to be pushing two days in a row when the opponent isn’t.”
Gagne’s seventh of the year from in-close made it 5-0 at 17:40.
Kubina extended the lead with a slap shot from the top of the right circle at 5:32 in the third before Peverley capped the scoring with his 13th goal of the season.
“It’s nice,” Thompson said of being on the winning side of a lop-sided game. “I think it’s a little overdue for us.”
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