ATLANTA – Steven Stamkos doesn’t really know why he has so much success against the Atlanta Thrashers.
And as long as he keeps up this pace, he doesn’t care.
“It seems like one of those teams you feel good about playing before the game starts,” the Tampa Bay star said. “Some rinks you just feel comfortable in, and this is one of them.”
Stamkos scored three goals for his second NHL hat trick, Vincent Lecavalier added a goal and an assist and the Lightning beat the Thrashers 5-2 on Friday night.
Goalie Mike Smith won his fourth straight start for Tampa Bay, a winner in seven straight against the Thrashers and two of three overall.
Stamkos, who tied Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the NHL lead with 51 goals last season, made it 3-0 on a power play, scoring on a slapshot with 2:10 left in the first period.
Stamkos’ unassisted wrister from the right circle, put Tampa Bay up 4-1 with 2:38 left in the second.
He added his sixth assist on Brett Clark’s second goal, a wrister on the power play that gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead 3:10 into the opening period.
Stamkos scored an empty-netter with 32 seconds remaining, his eighth goal of the season. He has 12 goals and nine assists in 14 career games against Atlanta.
“It’s just his third year, and he’s still focusing on little things that will make him a more complete hockey player,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “He is doing well. He is not perfect, but he is really progressing.”
Jim Slater’s first goal cut the lead to 3-1 for Atlanta 8:07 into the second. The Thrashers have lost two straight.
Atlanta was 0-for-7 on the power play before Dustin Byfuglien’s slap shot from the right boards made it 4-2 with 6:24 remaining.
Smith is off to a 4-0-0 start for the first time in his five-year career. He made 28 saves.
Atlanta goalie Chris Mason was pulled after giving up three goals in the first.
Peter Mannino, who was recalled from Chicago of the AHL two weeks ago, stopped 15 of 16 shots in the final two periods. The appearance was Mannino’s fourth in the NHL and first since March 20, 2009, in a loss with the New York Islanders.
“Pretty exciting to get a chance,” Mannino said. “I thought (Mason) played well. I just wanted to go in there and try to keep things close. It’s a good feeling to play my first game of the year at this level.”
Mason, who made 13 saves, is expected to start Saturday at Washington.
Lecavalier’s second goal put the Lightning ahead 2-0 with 3:55 left in the first. It came 1 second after Atlanta a two-man advantage in which the Thrashers had just one shot on goal.
Stamkos, who also scored three goals on Feb. 17, 2009, against Chicago, was impressed with his team’s early intensity. Tampa Bay was coming off an overtime home loss to the Islanders the night before.
“We just had to make sure we started strong this game, and a couple of power-play goals helped us out,” Stamkos said. “That’s why we won the game. We came out the first 10 minutes and set the tone.”
NOTES: Tampa Bay improved to 11-15-6 at Philips Arena. … Thrashers D Tobias Enstrom broke Slava Kozlov’s franchise record by playing in his 253rd straight game. Enstrom. … Atlanta D Zach Bogosian (shoulder) missed his fourth straight game.