Game 37: Carolina Hurricanes at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in front of a sell-out crowd of 19,204 at the newly re-named Tampa Bay Times Forum in Tampa Saturday night.

Out with the old, in with the new? Not so fast. A Tampa Bay Lightning team that was probably praying for the start of the new year a little more than two weeks ago is ending 2011 on a hot streak. Having now won three straight games and four of the last six, collecting nine out of a possible 12 points in the process, the Bolts have to feel good about their recent efforts.

"I feel better because the results are there, but the reality is I kept on saying it, you could see it coming. We were playing better and better and better and better. It was just a matter of results at that point, and getting some home games. You know, some teams right now, they're looking great in the standings. Well, they got the opposite. They got six games at home more than the other teams that they've played. So let's see what they do when they go out west and they go back and forth on their trips and see where we are at that point." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher
"We finally played a good complete game. That was the first one in a while. the last couple games we hadn't started out the way we wanted to, but tonight I thought our five-on-five play was pretty solid." - Steven Stamkos

The Lightning will have played 24 of their first 40 games on the road when they return to Tampa for their next home game on January 10th. With that in mind, the team was determined to end this homestand on the upswing.

Steven Stamkos, the league's leading goal scorer, got things started at 3:22 of the first on assists from Martin St. Louis and Steve Downie.

Carolina's Justin Faulk tied the game on a power play goal following a questionable hooking penalty on Teddy Purcell, who had dropped his stick upon contact with the opponent. The period ended with the teams tied at one.

Carolina took the lead on another power play goal on another questionable penalty call. This time, Marty St. Louis was sent to the penalty box for holding, his first penalty in his last 24 games. Jay Harrison scored on assists from Eric Staal and Jamie McBain at 4:29. Those would be the only goals surrendered by Bolts netminder Mathieu Garon.

The NHL's comeback leaders didn't look worried and tied the game just less than four minutes later when Stamkos scored his second goal of the game, again on assists from St. Louis and Downie. The teams headed into the second intermission knotted at two.

A hooking penalty called on Carolina with three seconds remaining in the second put the Bolts on the power play to begin the third. And at the :43 mark, they cashed in to re-take the lead, with Stamkos turning the hat trick, the fifth of his career, thanks to assists from St. Louis and Ryan Malone. The assist was the 500th of St. Louis's career.

"It's an honor to play this game and when you do things like that...I think you come into this league and you think about getting goals and assists and benchmarks." - Martin St. Louis

Less than 20 seconds later, Purcell scored his seventh goal of the season on assists from Malone and Brett Clark.

At the 6:51 mark, Downie found the back of the net, beating Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward over his shoulder. Malone and Tom Pyatt had helpers.

About a minute later, the Lightning appeared to have padded their lead to four when Dominic Moore scored, but the goal was waved off and Moore was whistled for goaltender interference and the game ended with the Lightning on top 5-2.

The Lightning outshot Carolina 32-26. They killed off two of four shorthanded situations while converting one of three power play opportunities.

"Tonight I thought four lines and three pairs and the goaltender all did their job and it was a real team effort in all aspects of the game, so it was very solid." - Boucher
"This was a big stepping stone for what we need to be doing here. We knew how important it was to get three wins and get back to .500 and to get ourselves back in the chase. We need to take this game on the road feeling good about ourselves. It was big." - St. Louis

The Lightning are in action again Tuesday, January 3rd when they'll face the Maple Leafs in Toronto.

Game notes:

  • This was the 96th meeting between the two teams. With the win, Tampa Bay now has the better record of 41-40-10-5 in the series.
  • Pavel Kubina saw his season high three-game scoring streak come to an end.
  • This is the Lightning's first three-game winning streak since November 9th.
  • The last time Marty St. Louis saw the inside of a penalty box was October 24th.
  • St. Louis has scored in every game he's played since returning from his eye injury.
  • Steve Downie has scored multiple points in each of the team's last four home games, registering two goals and nine assists over that stretch.
  • There are heroes and then there's Leigh Dittman. The Lightning honored her as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes. She received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program and will contribute the money to her charity of choice, Shriners Hospital for Children. Just 11 years old, Dittman suffers from Osteogenesis Imperfecta, a rare disease that causes the bones in the body to become very weak and brittle, while also stunting an individual’s proper growth. As a result of the sickness, Dittman has endured 29 broken bones and has also gone through seven surgeries to have metal rods inserted in her body for the purpose of straightening out her bones. In spite of all she has been through, however, Dittman continues to help others amidst the tough time she is going through herself. For over eight years, Dittman has raised approximately $350,000 to benefit Shriners Hospital for Children. She has held a variety of fundraisers varying from raffles, both live and silent auctions, and more. Her mission is not only to help raise money, but to create awareness throughout the community about the significant impact that Shriners Hospital has had on the lives of children. For her service, Dittman has been commended by numerous organizations throughout the Bay Area. In 2007, she was given the Kids Are Heroes trophy from St. Joseph’s Children’s Hospital in Tampa and earned a laudable distinction as the youngest person to be awarded the Service to Mankind Award from the Millennium Sertoma Club a year later. She then followed the accolades up with several more, including Young Hero of the Year, presented by Bay News 9 and Outback Steakhouse, and most recently, the Tampa Bay Business Journal’s 2011 Healthcare Philanthropist
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