TAMPA, Fla. - Extending their home unbeaten streak to four games and getting multi-point games from five different players, the Tampa Bay Lightning skated to a 6-2 win against the Atlanta Thrashers on Saturday night. Having won each of their four games at the St. Pete Times Forum this season, the Lightning defeated the Thrashers for the second time in two meetings.
Vaclav Prospal and Martin St. Louis led the way in the contest, with each player posting three points on the night. Posting his third multi-goal game of the season Prospal notched two goals and one assist in the contest, while St. Louis added one goal and two helpers.
Putting early pressure on the Thrashers, the Lightning saw a shot trickle inches away from the right post before Prospal opened the scoring.
From below the goal line, Martin St. Louis picked up his first assist of the night as he passed the puck out to the front of the net. Prospal collected the puck to the left of Atlanta netminder Johan Hedberg and tapped a shot on goal. After the rebound bounced back to Prospal, the Lightning winger popped a shot through the five-hole for the score only 5:10 into the game.
Approaching the midpoint of the period, the line of Michele Ouellet, Chris Gratton and Mathieu Darche combined for a tough chance against Hedberg and the Thrashers. Taking a cross-zone feed from Ouellet, defenseman Brad Lukowich dumped the puck ahead and towards the net. Gratton tried to stuff the puck into the net on the play as Darche crashed the crease, but Hedberg controlled the puck for the save.
Hedberg later denied Jan Hlavac in front of the net after Ouellet dished the puck out to the Lightning winger from below the goal line. Hlavac fired a point blank wrist shot on Hedberg, but was held off the board on the attempt.
After seeing Lightning goaltender Johan Holmqvist make a quick glove save off a face off, Atlanta responded by opening the scoring to tie the game at one.
Kicking off the play, Niclas Havelid made an up-ice pass from behind the net through the neutral zone that caught Ilya Kovalchuk at the Lightning blue-line. Kovalchuk picked up the puck at the right side boards and skated into the offensive zone to fire a shot past Holmqvist. The goal was Kovalchuk’s fourth of the season.
Despite the score, Gratton responded with 1:06 remaining in the period to re-gain the lead. From the left faceoff circle, Ouellet passed the puck ahead towards the Atlanta net. Positioned in the line of Ouellet’s pass, Gratton gained control of the puck and fired a wrist shot between Hedberg’s legs for his third goal through six games.
As the Lightning skated into the second period with a 2-1 lead, Vincent Lecavalier opened the frame with his fourth goal of the season. After Shane O’Brien dished the puck out of the defensive zone, Lecavalier collected the puck at the Lightning blue line for a breakaway. Slowing down as he approached Hedberg, Lecavalier fired a wrist shot through the five-hole for the score.
With less than two minutes remaining in the period, the Lightning posted two goals in a span of 39 seconds to skate out of the middle frame with a 5-1 lead.
With Darren Haydar in the penalty box serving a delay of game penalty, Prospal made a pass from the right side boards towards St. Louis at the front of the net. As St. Louis banged at the puck it slipped past Hedberg and settled barely past the goal, giving the Lightning winger his first goal of the season.
Also adding his first goal through six games, Mathieu Darche extended the Tampa Bay lead by four at 8:43 of the frame. After Darche moved the puck to Gratton behind the net, the Lightning center looked for a pass in front. The pass deflected off an Atlanta defender and back to Darche as he skated to the side of the crease where the Tampa Bay winger popped the puck over the right shoulder of Hedberg.
Despite opening the third period with Ondrej Pavelec between the pipes, Atlanta was unable to keep the Lightning off the scoreboard through the remaining 20 minutes of play. Scoring his seventh goal of the season, Prospal connected for the second Tampa Bay power play goal of the night.
After working through a back-and-forth passing play, Brad Richards faked a shot from the left faceoff circle as he opted for the pass. Accepting the puck to the left side of the net, Prospal tapped a one-timer behind Pavelec at 12:44 of the period.
The goal was Prospal’s 50th career power play marker and his seven goals through six games stand as the fastest goal-scoring start he has posted in his 11-year career.
Only 31 seconds after the goal Brett Sterling closed out the scoring in the contest, putting a shot over Holmqvist.
Tampa Bay out-shot Atlanta 30-20 in the game, including 17-2 through the first 20 minutes of play. Hedberg allowed five goals on 24 shots before being replaced in favor of Pavelec.
For the Lightning, Holmqvist made 18 saves en route to his fourth victory of the season.
“Tonight I thought we played a good game and we deserved to win,” St. Louis said. “Everyhing is so spread out, it’s tough to get on a roll, but [Holmqvist] was big tonight. He made the saves when he had to and our power play got us some goals to kind of put the game away.”
Going 2-for-5 on the power play, the Lightning held the Thrasher scoreless through two man advantage opportunities.
Lecavalier and Gratton each posted one goal and one assist in the contest, while defenseman Paul Ranger added two assists. With one helper in the game, Richards extended his current scoring streak to three games.
The game marked the fifth consecutive win against Atlanta at the St. Pete Times Forum.
“We just wanted to pick up where we left off in Boston, just trying to keep on playing quick,” head coach John Tortorella said. “That was our key for tonight – we wanted to play fast, we wanted our start and have something good happen for us. We did that. We just kept growing through the game and it was a good win for us.”
Following the win Tampa Bay returns to the road for a one-game trip against the Washington Capitals on Wednesday, October 24 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE). Kicking off back-to-back games for the Lightning, the contest marks the first of eight meetings between the teams this season.
Snap shot -
Martin St. Louis