TAMPA, Fla. – Finally, a breather for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Steven Stamkos notched his NHL-best 38th goal to take over sole possession of the league scoring lead and the Southeast Division leaders scored five times in the second period on their way to a 7-1 rout of the struggling Atlanta Thrashers on Sunday.
Eight of the Lightning’s previous 10 victories were by one goal, including three shootout wins in the team’s current four-game winning streak.
“It’s nice, and I think it’s a little overdue for us,” said centre Nate Thompson, whose short-handed goal began the onslaught for Tampa Bay, which has a league-best 17 one-goal wins.
“The last couple of games have all been really close games,” Thompson added. “I think we were doing all the right things. A lot of our goals were in front of the net, dirty goals.”
The Lightning beat the Thrashers for the 11th straight time, completing a six-game sweep of the season series between the division rivals, who were facing each other for the second time in four days.
Martin St. Louis, Dana Tyrell and Simon Gagne joined Stamkos and Thompson in scoring during a period that quickly got away from Atlanta. The Thrashers have dropped seven of their past eight games and haven’t beaten Tampa Bay since Oct. 3, 2009.
“Sometimes that’s the way it is,” Gagne said about Tampa Bay’s domination of Atlanta. “For us this year, we’ve had their number. … These are not easy games to win, but tonight I think we took advantage of their schedule.”
The Thrashers were coming off a 3-2 shootout loss to the New York Rangers on Saturday night.
Thompson and Tyrell began the spree, stunning goalie Ondrej Pavelec in the first two minutes of the second period. Thompson’s short-handed goal snapped a scoreless tie just 14 seconds in, then Tyrell followed with his first goal in 11 games to make it 2-0.
“We lost our composure after they scored that short-handed goal. That just turned everything. … We just imploded from there,” Atlanta coach Craig Ramsay said. “It was very disappointing. They smelled some blood and attacked.”
Stamkos hiked it to 3-0 when he redirected St. Louis’ shot past Pavelec to move ahead of injured Pittsburgh star Sidney Crosby for sole possession of the league points lead with 67. The first-time all-star has seven goals in his last six games and has been especially tough on Atlanta with nine goals and three assists this season. Crosby has missed eight straight games because of a concussion.
Gagne had a second goal in the third period, when Pavel Kubina also scored for Tampa Bay.
Dwayne Roloson made 21 stops—just nine after the opening period—for the Lightning, who began a 12-game, month-long homestand that matches the longest in NHL history. The California Golden Seals also played 12 consecutive games at home during the 1975-76 season.
When Atlanta’s Rich Peverley scored with just over four minutes remaining, the 41-year-old Roloson lost a bid for his third shutout in nine starts since Tampa Bay acquired him in a trade from the New York Islanders on New Year’s Day.
The Thrashers played without left wing Andrew Ladd (lower body) and defenceman Tobias Enstrom (hand), who had his franchise-record streak for consecutive games played end at 296. Both players were injured during Atlanta’s loss the previous night.
Ramsay, meanwhile, said his team’s lack of success against Tampa Bay is not confidence-related.
“I don’t think they really think about that much. I know I don’t,” the Thrashers coach said. “Each game is a different contest. You’re faced with adversity against everybody as you go through this thing, and you can’t be looking behind you. You have to look ahead.”
NOTES: Stamkos has 16 goals in 18 career games against the Thrashers. … Tampa Bay’s Ryan Malone was scratched because of a mid-body injury and likely won’t play again until after the all-star break. … Atlanta’s Dustin Byfuglien, who share’s Atlanta’s scoring lead with Enstrom, has no points in his last nine games. … The Lightning, in their 50th game, became the last team in the league to score a short-handed goal. … The Lightning record for goals in a period is six, set against Winnipeg on Dec. 19, 1995.