TAMPA, Fla. – Vincent Lecavalier led an eight-goal explosion on Tuesday night, recording his sixth career hat trick to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to an 8-4 victory. Hosting the New York Islanders at the St. Pete Times Forum, the Lightning posted their highest goal total this season to skate to the win.
Tampa Bay set a new franchise record in the contest, scoring three times in a span of 42 seconds during the third period. Setting the new record on goals by Lecavalier, Michel Ouellet and Jason Ward, the Lightning beat the previous mark of three goals in 45 seconds (April 10, 1994 versus the Hartford Whalers).
The Lightning wasted little time getting on the board when Ouellet scored the first of two Tampa Bay power play goals in the opening frame.
Connecting with two seconds remaining on the first Lightning man-advantage opportunity, Ouellet scored at 6:51 of the frame for his 13th goal of the season. Collecting the loose puck after goalie Rick DiPietro misplayed it behind the net, Jeff Halpern fed a pass out front to Ouellet. The Tampa Bay winger snapped a quick shot that deflected off Aaron Johnson and into the left side of the net.
A little more than five minutes later Lecavalier recorded his first goal of the night as the Lightning skated with a 5-on-3 man-advantage.
Although Halpern was pushed in front of the net, he was able to move the puck ahead to Martin St. Louis at the left faceoff circle. St. Louis passed the puck across the zone for a one-timed shot by Lecavalier. The puck banged off the left post and past DiPietro to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.
With less than three minutes remaining in the first Islanders captain Bill Guerin scored his 21st goal of the season to bring his team within one. After Brendan Witt sent a long pass up the ice, Guerin skated down the right wing before snapping a shot to the stick side against Karri Ramo.
New York tied the game at two at 4:16 of the second period before Tampa Bay scored three unanswered goals to re-claim the lead. Skating to the front of net, Ruslan Fedotenko converted a feed by Trent Hunter for his 16th goal this season.
Responding to the score, Halpern notched his fourth goal in eight games with the Lightning. As Mathieu Darche skated the puck down the left wing, he faked a shot to pull DiPietro beyond the right side of his crease. Darche continued around the net before passing back to Halpern who popped the shot into the open net from the slot.
Building a two-goal lead, Nick Tarnasky scored with a little more than five minutes remaining in the period. After picking up the puck deep in the zone, Craig MacDonald stepped to the side of the net to throw a shot on goal. The rebound bounced out front to Tarnasky who got a stick out to put a shot into the left side of the net.
The goal was Tarnasky’s sixth of the season, setting a new career high for the Lightning center.
Opening the four-goal final period, Lecavalier connected to extend the Tampa Bay lead, 5-2. Feeding a pass from the point, Dan Boyle found Lecavalier open below the goal line. Lecavalier stepped out to the left of DiPietro before stuffing the puck past the Islanders netminder.
Blake Comeau went on to score for New York, posting his first goal of the season after his slap shot from the right point deflected, hopped off the ice and snuck to the right of Ramo.
Answering the power play marker, the Lightning scored a team-record three goals in a span of 42 seconds to take an 8-3 lead.
With less than three minutes remaining in the game, St. Louis carried the puck to the top of the slot before sliding a pass across to Lecavalier. The Tampa Bay center fired a wrist shot from the left faceoff circle, beating DiPietro to the far side of the net.
The goal was Lecavalier’s team-leading 36th of the season, completing his second hat trick of the season. The game marked the second time Lecavalier has recorded a pair of hat tricks in a single season, and extended his franchise record for most individual hat tricks (six).
After Lecavalier scored at 17:43 of the third, Ouellet added the seventh Lightning goal at 18:15 of the period. As Darche made a pass out of the left corner, Ouellet jumped up into the play to bang a shot to the right of DiPietro.
Off the following faceoff Jason Ward skated down the right side of the offensive zone. With DiPietro caught at the near edge of his crease, a pass by Ward deflected off an Islanders defender and into the open side of the net. The goal stood as Ward’s eighth of the season.
The goals, scored 10 seconds apart, stood as the second fastest pair of goals in franchise history. Ouellet and Ward came within one second of the franchise record set when Dave Andreychuk and Fredrik Modin scored nine seconds apart in a January 9, 2004 match-up against the New Jersey Devils.
Mike Comrie closed out the scoring, connecting with less than one minute remaining in the game.
“Tonight, obviously we filled the net and I thought we continued to defend pretty well,” assistant coach Mike Sullivan said. “We’ve been talking to the players a little bit about simplifying, about manufacturing goals, about putting pucks to the net and getting to the paint… and tonight they got rewarded for their effort.”
Posting the winning goal, Lecavalier tied the team record he shares with St. Louis for most game-winners in a single season. Both players have each recorded seven winning goals three times in their career.
Six players recorded multi-point efforts during the game, including Ouellet and Halpern who each tied career highs for points in a game. Ouellet finished the contest with two goals and one assist, matching his career-best for the fourth time.
Halpern also recorded three points (one goal, two assists) to match his career-high for the seventh time. Halpern has recorded four goals and nine points in eight games with Tampa Bay, including goals in consecutive games.
The Lightning out-shot the Islanders 44-24 in the contest, with Ramo earning his third win in his previous six starts (3-1-2). Lecavalier led all players with nine shots on goal, while the club went 2-for-5 with the man-advantage.
“It’s a great win,” Lecavalier said. “It’s good for our confidence and we’re happy. Everybody was making plays, making some nice passes. It was an overall good game.”
Following the win Tampa Bay gets back on the road to face off against the Boston Bruins on Thursday, March 13 (7:00p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE). The game will close out the four-game season series between the clubs before the Lightning return for a Saturday night match-up against the New York Rangers.
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Martin St. Louis