The Tampa Bay Lightning are on a roll. Plain and simple.
The Bolts used a dominant second period, in which they outshot the Carolina Hurricanes 18-2 and scored three times, to propel them to a 5-1 victory.
Tampa has now won four straight, and kept pace with the Southeast Division-leading Atlanta Thrashers, who also won.
The Lightning, 19-10-4 overall for 42 points, are just one point behind Atlanta, and are tied with the suddenly-fading Washington Capitals. But a key statistic is that Tampa Bay holds two games in hand on both teams.
Martin St. Louis was once again the big offensive catalyst for the Bolts, as he scored his 13th goal of the season and added two assists.
His tally came with just one second left in the first period, giving Tampa a 2-1 lead in what would later prove to be the game-winner. His efforts earned him First Star honors.
St. Louis now has 30 assists on the season, tying him with Sidney Crosby for second overall in the league, just one behind leader Henrik Sedin.
Steven Stamkos scored his 26th goal of the season on a power play in the second, just one behind Crosby’s league-leading total.
On the goal, Stamkos became just the sixth player in NHL history, along with Wayne Gretzky, Jimmy Carson, Brian Bellows, Dale Hawerchuk, and Ilya Kovalchuk, to notch his 100th career goal before turning 21 years old.
Stamkos (47) and St. Louis (43) are second and third, respectively, in the NHL points-scoring race, behind (yes, once again) Crosby.
Dan Ellis, who was pressed into the starting duties when Mike Smith suffered a knee injury in the morning skate, stopped 21 of 22 shots to improve his record to 9-5-4.
After a shaky stretch by the club’s netminders, both have played well as of late. This was the third consecutive contest that the Bolts have yielded just one goal.
Smith is expected to miss up to two weeks, so Ellis will get his chance to re-establish himself with the club. The official Tampa Bay Lightning Twitter feed posted that Boucher said “this was Ellis’ best game of the year.”
Tampa re-called Cedrick Desjardins from the Norfolk Admirals of the AHL early yesterday to serve as Ellis’ back up.
The Lightning improved to 11-3-2 in their last 15, as well as running their record in games played at St. Pete Times Forum to 10-2-2. They have not lost in regulation in their last seven at home, going 6-0-1 since losing 4-1 to the Minnesota Wild on November 14th.
The Bolts now travel to New York, where they will play Wednesday against the Islanders at Nassau Coliseum, and Thursday against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden before the Christmas break.
Bolts Bits: Tampa’s power play was lethal, scoring on 2-3 opportunities, while Carolina scored once on five chances with the man advantage…the Lightning finished with 34 shots on goal, as Stamkos, Vincent Lecavalier, and Sean Bergenheim each finished with a game-high total of six apiece…in addition to limiting the Hurricanes to 22 shots, the Bolts also blocked 23 Carolina shot attempts. Defenseman Randy Jones finished with a game-high four blocks…Lecavalier finished with an assist, but also contributed by winning 10 of 14 faceoffs. Tampa Bay had a good night in the faceoff circle, winning 33 of 53 draws…Bergenheim, who scored a second period power play goal, was denied by Canes goaltender Justin Peters on a late third period penalty shot attempt. Bergenheim was awarded the penalty shot after being slashed while on a breakaway by Carolina defenseman Joni Pitkanen. It was the second straight game that the Lightning had an unsuccessful penalty shot attempt late in the third period. Lecavalier was stopped by Buffalo Sabres’ netminder Ryan Miller in Saturday’s win.
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Topics: Bolts, Carolina Hurricanes, Dan Ellis, Henrik Sedin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Martin St Louis, National Hockey League, NHL, Ryan Miller, Sidney Crosby, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Vincent Lecavalier, Wayne Gretzky