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Halpern, Murphy help Lightning jolt Sabres

TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning have yet to

respond to rumors regarding the trading of captain Vincent

Lecavalier, but they seemingly have changed their ways on the

ice.

Jeff Halpern and defenseman Cory Murphy each recorded a goal and

an assist as the Lightning posted a 5-3 victory over the Buffalo

Sabres on Wednesday.

Blue-liners Lukas Krajicek and Steve Eminger also tallied and

Steve Downie added another goal to support a 31-save effort from

Mike Smith for the Lightning, who have won six of their last

nine.

"The last three or four weeks, this team has faced a lot of

adversity, and they passed the test," Tampa Bay interim coach

Rick Tocchet said. "They've done a great job. We all play to

play for the playoffs. Who wants to play just a regular season?

"Obviously there's a light at the end of the tunnel. We've dug

ourselves a hole and we're trying to get out of it. We've been

getting better as a team, getting those ugly goals."

Derek Roy scored a pair of goals, Ales Kotalik netted a

power-play tally and Jason Pominville notched two assists for

Buffalo, which had its four-game winning streak halted.

"We worked hard for a good period of time," Sabres coach Lindy

Ruff said. "We looked like we were going to push right up

against them. We created the opportunities we wanted to create

and we missed a couple of great opportunities, and when you're

pressing that hard, you give up some opportunities."

Amid the distractions, Lecavalier and the Lightning have begun

to ease the sting of a horrific 7-16-9 start, which included a

season-high, nine-game losing streak.

Tampa Bay already has set a season high for wins in a month with

six in January, and its surge has come at a rather puzzling time

as it has been rumored to be shopping Lecavalier to a contender

such as the Montreal Canadiens.

Lecavalier had scored in three straight games and recorded seven

goals and 14 points over the previous 10 contests, but the

All-Star was kept off the scoresheet in this one. Instead, his

supporting cast stole the show.

"It's really fun," Halpern said. "We have to focus and keep it

simple. That's how you score. I think the way our team has

been playing over the last few weeks, we're getting goals as a

team, and sometimes it might not always be (Lecavalier and

Martin St. Louis) that are scoring, but they're tilting the ice

for the next line out there."

Tampa Bay claimed an early lead as Eminger blasted a slap shot

past goaltender Ryan Miller 4:45 into the contest and Downie

tallied just 34 seconds later.

Roy halved the deficit 19 seconds into the middle period, but

Krajicek solved Miller 64 seconds later for a 3-1 cushion.

"I think it was a pretty even game, it could easily have gone

either way," Kotalik said. "Chance-wise, they were a little bit

better. I don't know if we deserved to win tonight."

Kotalik kept Buffalo afloat just over four minutes into the

second. After Halpern gave Tampa Bay a 4-2 bulge less than 10

minutes later, Roy struck again with the man advantage with 3:05

left in the session.

"We got a couple of big saves on a couple of overaggressive

plays, and then the Halpern goal was kind of a killer for us,"

Ruff said. "It took a little momentum out of us."

With six seconds remaining in the period, Murphy - who was

claimed off waivers from Florida on Monday - capped the

offensive outburst with a power-play goal, firing a slap shot

from the high slot past Miller.

"We're going to put a big run on now and hopefully get some rest

going into the break and come back rejuvenated and ready to make

a big push," Smith said. "It was nice to see some of our D

contribute tonight, and that was a big goal by Murphy on the

power play."

Smith turned aside all nine shots he faced in the third to

preserve the victory and improve to 13-16-9 on the season.

"We've go to bear down on those chances," Roy said. "They had

their chances, and they put them in the back of the net."

Miller made 21 saves for the Sabres, who fell to 7-3-0 in their

last 10 contests.

Buffalo also lost defenseman Henrik Tallinder, who injured his

shoulder in the second period and did not return. The Swede is

expected to miss a fair amount of time.

"He's not good," Ruff said. "He's got a shoulder injury, and

we'll probably get him back to Buffalo to be looked at. But

he's going to be out for a good period of time."

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