Lecavalier strikes twice as Lightning top Predators

TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) — Captain Vincent Lecavalier’s early
outburst was enough to give Rick Tocchet his first win as
interim coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Lecavalier scored two first-period goals and Ryan Malone notched
three assists after missing four games with a lower body injury
as the Lightning rolled past the Nashville Predators, 4-1, on

Mark Recchi and Vaclav Prospal also tallied as the Lightning
enjoyed a successful effort under Tocchet, who took over for the
fired Barry Melrose on November 14. Tampa Bay suffered shootout
losses in Tocchet’s first two games behind the bench.

“It’s great. It’s like scoring your first NHL goal,” Tocchet
said. “It’s the last couple of games and how hard we worked.
It was nice to get the win and get some goals for (goaltender
Mike Smith). … Overall, I thought for at least the first half
of the game, we were really jumping and, you know, when you get
in control, sometimes you lay back. We’ve got to make sure we
don’t lay back too much.”

“It’s nice to get a win for the confidence and knowing we can
win,” Lecavalier said. “But the last three games, I think we
had a lot of energy, we were quick on the puck and we had a lot
of opportunities.”

The top overall pick in this past June’s draft, Steven Stamkos
set up two goals, giving him three points in his last two games
after an eight-game drought.

Smith turned aside 34 shots, including 15 in the second period.
The 26-year-old netminder has yielded three goals or less in
nine of his last 11 contests.

“I felt good tonight,” Smith said. “I felt like I was seeing
it. (I) worked really hard the last three practices just to
battle to find pucks, and it seems like there was a lot of
traffic out there, so (you’ve) got to fight through that. But
tonight, we battled and the team got some goals. (It was) a big
win for the club.”

Jordin Tootoo scored and Dan Ellis made 20 saves for the
Predators, who dropped their second straight game after winning
three in a row.

“It came down to poor decisions,” Ellis said. “We’re making
basic hockey very difficult hockey. You don’t throw pucks into
the middle and you don’t turn pucks over when you have plays.

“We have to be stronger, and especially when you go on the road.
You’re in someone else’s building, they’ve got lots of energy,
you’ve got a little bit of road legs. The main thing is, you’ve
got to keep things simple.”

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Lecavalier opened the scoring five minutes into the game,
converting the rebound of Malone’s initial attempt during a man
advantage. He struck again just over two minutes later, firing
a slap shot from the slot past Ellis at 7:05 for his ninth goal
of the season.

“It felt pretty good to get a lead tonight,” Lecavalier said.
“After that, we had a lot of power plays, a lot of
penalty-killing, but it’s good to get the win.”

Lecavalier entered with just one tally in his previous eight
games. During his 40-goal campaign last season, the three-time
All-Star netted his ninth goal on November 8.

Tootoo halved the deficit with 9:20 left the session, but Recchi
restored Tampa Bay’s two-goal lead 97 seconds later. After
defenseman Marek Malik had his shot stopped by Ellis, Recchi
grabbed the rebound and buried it from the doorstep.

“When you score three goals on a team, a lot of times it’s going
to take the wind out of a team,” Lecavalier said. “I don’t
think they came as hard as us. We took it to them, we shot the
puck, it went in and like I said, our goalie played great, so
the advantage of playing at home is that quick start, and we
took advantage tonight.”

Prospal capped the scoring at 6:32 of the second, putting a
backhander past Ellis for his fourth tally of the season.

“The guys have to know that they worked hard tonight,” Predators
captain Jason Arnott said. “It just didn’t go our way. (Smith)
played unbelievable for them. We tried to create traffic as
much as we could, and it didn’t happen for us tonight. So we
can’t hang our heads, we’ve got to stay positive in here and
keep working at it, and it will come.”

The Predators are winless in five visits to Tampa Bay since
posting a 3-0 win on March 24, 1999.

“You dig yourself a hole,” Nashville coach Barry Trotz said.
“We gave them the game in the first period just by the turnovers
and the decisions. … We had lots of chances.

“I thought Smith played quite well for them. The power play had
lots of chances, we had the opportunities to inch back in the
game, but Smith stood tall. I understand he’s been playing
really well all year with them. He closed the door.”