When you have a game of this magnitude, it’s imperative that your best players come up big for your club. The Tampa Bay Lightning followed that thought process to a tee tonight against the Atlanta Thrashers in a 3-2 overtime victory.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice, including the game-winner while on the power play at 1:13 of overtime, to propel the Lightning past a Thrashers squad that came into the contest trailing both Tampa Bay and the Washington Capitals by a single point.
The captain now has three goals in his last two games, and has notched points in four of the six contests (three goals, five points) he has played since coming back from surgery to repair a broken right hand.
Lecavalier’s game-winner came with Atlanta defenseman Dustin Byfuglien in the box for boarding Randy Jones late in regulation.
Martin St. Louis played a courageous game while battling the affects of the flu. He had skated with the team to begin the pre-game warm ups, but quickly exited the ice surface. It was not known at that time if he would be able to play, but returned to record two assists, including a helper on Lecavalier’s overtime winner, in 16:21 of ice time.
The diminutive one also took a nasty cut to the area around his left eye when he was high-sticked by Atlanta defenseman Toby Enstrom midway through the third. Enstrom was assessed a double-minor on the play.
Super sniper Steven Stamkos also scored for the Bolts, knocking home a rebound of a Ryan Malone shot for his 28th goal of the season to open the scoring in the first period. “Stammer” trails league-leading goal scorer Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins by just two goals.
The win helped Tampa keep pace with the Capitals, who also won tonight over the Carolina Hurricanes. The teams are tied with 47 points apiece, but the Lightning have played two fewer games than Washington.
Goaltender Dan Ellis was excellent between the pipes for the Bolts, making 26 saves on 28 Thrashers’ shots. He has now won four of his last five decisions, with the only blemish being an overtime loss last Wednesday night to the New York Islanders.
Zach Bogosian and Fredrik Modin each scored for Atlanta.
The Lightning is now 7-1-2 in the 10 games following a brutal 8-1 road loss to the Boston Bruins on December 2.
Tampa Bay now returns home for three games before heading to the road for another four. The homestand begins with a tilt against the Bruins Tuesday night, followed by the Montreal Canadiens Thursday, and the New York Rangers on New Years’ Day.
Bolts Bits: Tampa Bay outshot Atlanta 34-28…the Bolts did not fare too well in the faceoff circle tonight, winning just 42% of the draws (30-71)…the Lightning was 1-6 on the power play, while the Thrashers did not score on their two opportunities with the man advantage.
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