Tampa Bay (CBS) The Tampa Bay Lightning have had a mediocre beginning to the 2011-2012 NHL regular season, but with three straight home wins heading into the new year Tampa Bay may be looking to turn things around.
After two key wins against the Flyers and Canadiens during the holiday week, the Carolina Hurricanes came to town on New Year’s Eve hoping to gain some ground in the tightly knit Southeast division.
Instead, Steven Stamkos stole the spotlight with a hat trick at the newly named Tampa Bay Times Forum to lead the bolts to a 5-2 victory and bring them back to .500 for the season. The NHL’s leading scorer has been a breath of fresh air during a period of shaky road play and and costly injuries.
A three-goal third period for the Lightning ultimately sealed up the win at home and gave the team a much needed boost before they hit the road for three games to start the new year.
Martin St. Louis reached an incredible personal benchmark Saturday night, contributing three assists to bring him to 500 assists for his career. “It’s an honor to play this game,” St. Louis said to reporters about reaching the 500 mark. “When you do things like that, I think you come into this League and you think about getting benchmarks.”
Stamkos provided the goals early on, netting a goal in the first and second periods to match goals scored by Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison for Carolina.
Contributions came from a variety of Lightning players, and when the bolts are pushing full throttle they can be as dangerous as any top tier team in the league. Teddy Purcell and Steven Downie each had a goal in the third period, and Ryan Malone provided all three assists in the third to make his mark during a crucial win at home.
Mathie Garon has earned his keep in net for Tampa Bay, stopping 24-of-26 shots in his 11th consecutive start for the Lightning.
Tampa Bay will head to Toronto to face the Maple Leafs on Tuesday.