The Tampa Bay Lightning battled back from a one-goal deficit in the third period to defeat the visiting Dallas Stars, 4-2, tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Coming off a disappointing loss to Florida on Saturday night, interim coach Rick Tocchet challenged his squad to bounce back.
“You have to be a professional and tonight, we’re looking for professionals,” Tocchet said before the game. “I’ll be interested to see how they react.”
Tocchet got the reaction he was seeking, but it took until the middle of the final period before the Lightning asserted themselves and took control of the contest.
Earlier in the day, Tampa Bay acquired defenseman Cory Murphy from the Florida Panthers, and Murphy arrived at the St. Pete Times Forum just two hours before game time.With Tampa Bay short on defensive help, Murphy found himself on the ice when the puck dropped to start the first period. Just 38 seconds later he was off the ice, whistled for holding; the first of what would be six consecutive Tampa Bay penalties.
Less than one minute into the penalty kill, Martin St. Louis got the puck to Vincent Lecavalier, who had snuck behind the Dallas defense. Lecavalier broke in on Dallas netminder Marty Turco and schooled him with a wrist shot between his pads that put Tampa Bay in the lead, 1-0. Lecavalier’s 20th goal of the season was the third short-handed goal for Tampa Bay this season. The Lightning captain now has recorded a goal in three consecutive games.
“I got pretty lucky,” Lecavalier said. “I was alone from before the blueline to the net. Turco gave me a little bit of an opening between his legs and I took advantage of it.”
With the power play still underway for the Stars, former Lightning Brad Richards evened the score 20 seconds later when he brought the puck from deep in the Dallas defensive zone, skated through the neutral zone and played give-and-go with Mark Parrish. Once the puck was back on his stick, Richards fired it past Lightning netminder Mike Smith to tie the score at 1-1.
That was all the scoring for period one, and the second period also did not produce much in the way of goals, either, with Dallas jumping out to a 2-1 lead with a goal at 4:19 as Mike Modano worked a 2-on-1 to perfection with Loui Ericksson scoring off Modano’s cross-ice feed.
Tampa Bay finally was able to knot the score at 2-2 when Steven Stamkos put the puck past Turco from the low slot off a pass from behind the net by Steve Downie. The goal, number six on the season for Stamkos, was also assisted by former Dallas player Jussi Jokinen.
The Lightning got their second power play opportunity of the night when Dallas defenseman Matt Niskanen was sent to the penalty box for holding at 14:07 of the third period. Skating with the man-advantage, newcomer Cory Murphy quarterbacked the power play from the blueline and fed a perfect pass to Lecavalier. The Lightning captain powered the puck by Turco for his second goal of the game. The score, a team-leading number 21 for Lecavalier, was also assisted by Mark Recchi and gave Tampa Bay a lead which they would never relinquish.
The finale came with less than a minute remaining in the game when Vaclav Prospal scored the first empty net goal of the season for the Lightning. Prospal’s 11th goal of the season was assisted by St. Louis, his second assist of the game, and by Lecavalier, for his third point of the game.
The win was Tampa Bay’s second of three during the five-game homestand and their fourth victory in their last six games.
Mike Smith, another of the players that changed sweaters in the Richards trade, stopped 23 of the 25 shots he faced and St. Louis has scored 19 points in the last 12 games.
“That was a big game for us,” interim coach Tocchet said. “We’re thin on defense and guys had to play a lot of minutes, so the win is huge for us.”
The Lightning will try to make it two wins in a row when the homestand continues on Wednesday night against the Buffalo Sabres.
Martin St. Louis