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Martin St. Louis scores in OT to lead Lightning to 5-4 win over Thrashers

With first place in the division on the line, Martin St. Louis scored with 1:16 left in overtime Thursday night to lead Tampa Bay to a 5-4 victory over the Thrashers. The Thrashers, aiming for their first playoff appearance, lost leads of 2-0 and 3-1 while falling a point behind the Lightning in the division. "It was nice to get a point on them ... but it was two good teams going at it tonight," St. Louis said. "It was a fun game to play and I'm sure it was a fun game to watch."

St. Louis took a pass from Brad Richards and fired a shot from the left circle past Johan Hedberg for the game-winner.

"We caught them on a change, I think, and Richie made a good play just to get me set up," St. Louis said. "I just shot it. If it didn't go in, I wanted to get in position to rebound, but it went in."

Tampa Bay is 5-2 against Atlanta this season, beating the Thrashers once in a shootout and twice in overtime.

The latest loss left some Atlanta players in a foul mood.

"They're just lucky right now," Atlanta's Eric Belanger said. "Things are going their way."

Added Atlanta's Andy Sutton: "Everything they got, we gave them."

Richards, Eric Perrin, Vincent Lecavalier and Andrew Roy also scored for Tampa Bay, which trailed Atlanta by 16 points in early January.

Belanger, Steve McCarthy, Eric Boulton and Marian Hossa scored goals for the Thrashers.

The Lightning rallied with three goals in the second period, and Roy's third-period goal forced the overtime.

The Thrashers have lost five of six, while the Lightning are 9-1-1 in their last 11 road games.

The Thrashers, only three points ahead of third-place Carolina, sought solace in their strong start to the game. Atlanta outshot Tampa Bay 10-5 while leading 1-0 after the first period.

"We play like we did in the first period, I don't think there are many teams that are better," Belanger said. "That's what we have to look at."

The Lightning rallied after the slow start.

"That's huge," Roy said. "We never gave up. We kept working. ... It was a big two points."

Hedberg started in consecutive games for the first time since Dec. 15-16. After four straight losses on a six-game road trip, Atlanta coach Bob Hartley started Hedberg ahead of Kari Lehtonen on Tuesday night at Carolina, and Hedberg stopped 33 shots in a 3-1 win.

Against Tampa Bay, Hedberg struggled after a strong opening period.

McCarthy knocked in the only goal of the first period, cashing in on a follow-up shot when Scott Mellanby's shot bounced off Tampa Bay goalie Marc Denis.

The teams combined for five second-period goals. Atlanta took leads of 2-0 and 3-1, but the Lightning closed out the period with two goals to pull even.

Lecavalier's NHL-leading 40th goal tied it at three on a power play with less than five minutes left in the period, following a diving penalty on Atlanta's Jon Sim.

The offensive momentum for both teams carried over into the third period. Hossa's 35th goal, only 30 seconds into the period, was set up by Belanger winning the opening faceoff.

The Lightning pulled even at 4-4 on Roy's first goal 2:28 into the period.

Belanger, acquired from Nashville on Feb. 10, scored his second goal with the Thrashers and 10th overall this season, for a 2-0 lead.

Hedberg held his glove up, but couldn't catch a shot from the right circle by Richards for Tampa Bay's first goal at the 11:24 mark.

Boulton tipped in a shot attempt by Bobby Holik as Atlanta took a 3-1 lead. The goal was reviewed, with officials ruling Boulton was not guilty of high-sticking.

Less than 30 seconds later, Tampa Bay answered with a goal by Perrin.

Notes: The Thrashers recalled Derek MacKenzie from Chicago of the AHL on Thursday, but held out the forward. The team also placed Steve Rucchin on injured reserve. Rucchin had missed the last five games after being hit in the head in a Feb. 8 game at Colorado. ... Tampa Bay didn't manage a shot on goal in its only power-play chance of the first period. ... Tampa Bay has at least one power-play goal in six straight games.



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