TAMPA, Fla. – Tampa Bay needed a desperate finish to finally end its five-game home winless streak.
Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists to give Tampa Bay a 4-3 win over the Edmonton Oilers that was the Lightning’s third straight overall, renewing hope for a playoff bid despite their position at the bottom of the Eastern Conference standings.
“I felt they needed to do that,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “Not just look at your record, look where you’re at in regards to everybody else. There are so many teams fighting the way we are.”
The Lightning built a 4-1 lead, but goals by Steve Staios and Ales Hemsky late in the third period turned up the heat.
Brad Richards scored 38 seconds into the second for Tampa Bay. Richards set up the goal with the first of three passes that lured Oilers goaltender Dwayne Roloson from the right side of the net.
Craig MacDonald made it 2-0 less than four minutes later with a slap shot from the left circle. St. Louis extended the lead with a short-handed goal, tapping in his own rebound at the 9:17 mark.
Fifty-one seconds later, Andrew Cogliano broke through for Edmonton with a power-play goal. The shot from close range halted a shutout string of 151 minutes 37 seconds by Johan Holmqvist. The Tampa Bay goalie was coming off consecutive shutouts at Pittsburgh and Ottawa.
“I was wide open back door and the guy made a good stick play and it trickled behind me a little,” Cogliano said. “I just got the puck and shot it in. It wasn’t a terrific goal, but it got in.”
Vincent Lecavalier restored the three-goal advantage on a power play at 5:51 of the third, reaching the 30-goal mark for the fifth straight season.
Then things got interesting.
Staios slammed the second Edmonton goal past Holmqvist with 7:05 remaining, and Hemsky made it 4-3 with 1:19 to play. The Oilers played the final minute with an empty net to no avail.
“Obviously, we’d like to finish better than that, but a win is a win,” St. Louis said. “We’ll address the mistakes. Sometimes you need to get a win like that.”
Despite their place in the standings, Tampa Bay is determined to make a run at the Southeast Division crown. Their victory Tuesday, combined with Carolina’s 6-3 loss to the New York Islanders, got the Lightning within seven points of the division-leading Hurricanes.
“It doesn’t amaze me because it’s been like that for the last two or three years,” Lecavalier said. “There’s a little more parity in the league. You’ve got to take it game by game and make sure we keep playing the way we are.”
Notes: Oilers D Joni Pitkanen returned after missing two games with a groin strain. … Lightning D Dan Boyle (wrist) may play for the first time since Nov. 3 as soon as Thursday. … Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella joined Herb Brooks atop the all-time list of games coached by an American at 506. … The Lightning have not allowed a first-period goal in their last four games and only one in their past six. … The Oilers hadn’t visited Tampa since a 3-2 loss on Dec. 5, 2002. … Dallas co-general manager Brett Hull scouted the game.