TAMPA, Fla. – Steven Stamkos got high praise from an NHL great.
Stamkos extended his franchise-record points streak to 16 games, and Antero Niittymaki remained perfect against Atlanta, helping the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Thrashers 6-2 on Saturday night.
Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said former teammate and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux used “Wow” after the game to describe the 20-year-old Stamkos.
“He’s a special guy,” Tocchet said about Stamkos. “The guy thrives with ice time.”
Stamkos had two goals – which gave him 40 for the season – and an assist. The centre has 15 goals and 14 assists during his streak.
Niittymaki improved to 17-0-0 overall against Atlanta. Martin St. Louis, Paul Szczechura, Teddy Purcell – on a penalty shot – and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning, who stopped a five-game winless streak.
“I thought it was a great team effort,” Stamkos said. “It was one of those games where if you lose it, you don’t want to say that’s the season, but it’s pretty devastating to lose to a team like that that’s ahead of you.”
The Lightning would have fallen five points behind Atlanta, which started the day eighth in the Eastern Conference, with a loss Saturday,
St. Louis was shaken up after being checked into the boards by Atlanta’s Clarke MacArthur with 7:46 left in the game. After spending a couple minutes kneeling behind the Thrashers’ net, St. Louis was able to skate off the ice.
“I think he’s going to be OK,” Tocchet said. “It was a scary moment there.”
New Tampa Bay owner Jeff Vinik attended his first home game since getting NHL approval to purchase the team Wednesday.
Niclas Bergfors and Colby Armstrong scored for Atlanta. The Thrashers are 4-1-2 in their last seven games.
“I think they were a little sharper, wanted it a little more,” Atlanta coach John Anderson said of Tampa Bay. “If we would have won, it might have hurt their (playoff) chances, but now they’re right back in it.”
After Bergfors opened the scoring 3:22 into the game, goals by St. Louis, Stamkos and Szczechura gave Tampa Bay a 3-1 lead after one period. The Thrashers have been outscored 71-50 in the first this season.
St. Louis tied it at 8:47 before Stamkos made it 2-1 with 6:54 left in the period from the left circle during a power play. Szczechura extended the Lightning advantage to 3-1 on his first goal in 29 games at the 17-minute mark.
St. Louis also had two assists, and has 11 goals and 15 assists over his last 17 games.
Armstrong cut the Thrashers’ deficit to 3-2 at 13:37 of the second. Purcell got the goal back on a penalty shot with 3:24 to go in the period.
Lecavalier and Stamkos had a third-period goals.
NOTES: Thrashers LW Evander Kane left during the second with a foot injury, which resulted from blocking a shot. … Tampa Bay LW Ryan Malone, a member of the U.S. Olympic team, has not scored a goal in his last 14 games. … Lightning RW Steve Downie has five goals and eight assists during a 10-game points streak. He assisted on St. Louis’ goal. … Szczechura was recalled from Norfolk of the AHL before the game.