NHL Game Summary - Atlanta at Tampa Bay
(Tuesday, October 21st)
Final Score: Tampa Bay 3, Atlanta 2 (OT)
Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Vinny Lecavalier's power-play goal 1:41 into overtime lifted the Tampa Bay Lightning to their first victory of the season, a 3-2 decision over the Atlanta Thrashers. This also marked the first victory for new Tampa head coach Barry Melrose.
Mark Recchi and Vinny Prospal also scored for Tampa Bay, which began the season with a five-game winless skid (0-2-3) -- all the setbacks were by one goal. Mike Smith was strong with 31 saves for the Lightning, who will host the Sharks on Saturday.
"The most positive thing about this win is the way we battled and didn't quit," said Melrose. "We went out in overtime and made a great play."
Colby Armstrong and Todd White scored for the Thrashers, who fell to 2-2-2 on the young season. Kari Lehtonen allowed three goals on 38 shots in the losing effort.
"We're certainly glad we earned a point, we've very fortunate and I thought our comeback was excellent," said Atlanta head coach John Anderson.
After the Thrashers tied the score at 2-2 with under a minute to play in the third period, the Lightning gained a power play at the 1:11 mark of overtime when Bryan Little was called for tripping. Skating 4-on-3, Martin St. Louis held control below the right circle and slipped a backhand pass to Lecavalier, who cut into the slot and lit the lamp for the third time this season as the Lightning bench congregated in celebration.
"Marty made a great pass -- I just shot the puck and wasn't sure where it was going," said Lecavalier. "I just wanted to get a shot on net."
The Lightning opened the scoring at the 7:18 mark of the first period on Recchi's second goal of the season. He accepted a pass from Radim Vrbata in the neutral zone and carried the puck over the blue line down the right-wing side. From the near circle, Recchi ripped a wrist shot past Lehtonen.
Smith made several key stops throughout the remainder of the first. Slava Kozlov, while his team was shorthanded, stick-handled through three defenders and nearly scored from the top of the crease, but Smith made the stop. Later in the stanza, Erik Christensen attempted a stuffer but Smith was there with the right pad.
The only goal of the second frame was scored by Prospal. The veteran forward released a slap shot from the top of the right circle that Lehtonen made the save on, but the goaltender bobbled the puck and it fell to the ice. Lecavalier was at the top of the crease and tried to put home the rebound, and as Lehtonen turned around to try to scoop the puck back into his glove, he inadvertently pushed it into his own net and the hosts held a two-goal lead with 6:50 remaining before the second intermission.
At the 6:37 mark of the third period, the Thrashers cut their deficit in half. After a battle for the puck along the right half-wall, White emerged with control of the puck and sent a soft shot on net from inside the near circle. Armstrong, from the top of the crease, redirected the puck in midair and it flew into the back of the cage for Armstrong's second goal of 2008-09.
Lehtonen was pulled for the extra skater inside the final minute and it paid off. Mathieu Schneider and Ron Hainsey passed the disc back and forth near the blue line before Schneider unleased a one-timer from the right side. The puck was redirected by White from the slot and it caromed past Smith with 36 seconds remaining in regulation.
"The last couple of minutes not a lot of guys wanted the puck, so we have to change that culture," said Melrose. "Guys have to want the puck and be aggressive."
Tampa Bay's Gary Roberts played in his 1,200th career game...This game featured the two youngest players in the NHL playing against each other -- Tampa's Steven Stamkos and Atlanta blueliner Zach Bogosian. Both are 18 but Stamkos is three months older...Last season, Lehtonen won all four of his starts versus Tampa Bay...Attendance was 13,922.
10/21 23:25:29 ET