Antero Niittymaki improves to 16-0 against Atlanta; Tampa Bay tops Thrashers 2-1

ATLANTA – Ilya Kovalchuk couldn’t break Antero Niittymaki’s “curse” on the Atlanta Thrashers. Instead, the Thrashers captain broke his stick in frustration.

Niittymaki stopped 26 shots for his 16th straight win over Atlanta as the Tampa Bay Lightning won 2-1 late Tuesday in the NHL.

Niittymaki protected the early 2-0 lead, giving up only a second-period goal to Todd White.

“Sometimes you get a game like that where you can’t get a goal behind,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “The curse continues, I guess. A little frustrating.”

Kovalchuk, the Thrashers star who was the subject of trade rumours, broke his stick against the net at the end of the game. He has no goals in three games against Niittymaki this season.

“You have to be aware of where he is,” Niittymaki said of Kovalchuk. “They look for him all the time. You have to be ready.

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“He didn’t have any great shots.”

Niittymaki improved to 13-5-9 overall this season. He is 5-1-1 in his last seven games.

“He has played very well for us,” teammate Martin St. Louis said. “He made some big saves in the second period.”

The Lightning improved to 4-1 against the Thrashers this season with their fourth straight win in the series, including three victories with Niittymaki in the net.

Niittymaki, in his first season with the Lightning after five with Philadelphia, improved to 11-0 at Philips Arena.

“It’s just another building,” Niittymaki said. “I don’t think about it. I don’t think you can win them all. We’ll have to see what happens next time.”

Niittymaki was also in goal for the Lightning’s 2-1 home win over the Thrashers on Jan. 23 and a 4-3 win at Atlanta on Nov. 22.