PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Grim playoff hopes aren’t stopping the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Martin St. Louis scored the go-ahead goal early in the third period, Steven Stamkos notched his team-record 53rd goal and the Lightning beat the Philadelphia Flyers 5-3 on Monday night.
Ryan Malone and J.T. Wyman also had goals to help the Lightning win their third straight game. It’s probably a little too late for Tampa, which is 11th in the Eastern Conference and seven points out of a playoff spot with seven games remaining.
“We’re kind of hanging on right now,” Stamkos said. “There’s a lot of character in this room, and on this team, and it’s showing. When you play well, and take advantage of your opportunities, you end up getting some timely goals, and that’s what you’re seeing. There’s a lot of pride in this room.
“In this position, you always have to just keep playing. You never know what can happen, and we still have a chance. Until we don’t have one, we have to play like we do, and it’s working out for now.”
Wayne Simmonds, Matt Read and Scott Hartnell scored Philadelphia’s goals. The Flyers lost for just the third time in 14 games this month. They’ve already clinched a playoff berth, but are four points behind Pittsburgh for fourth place and the home-ice advantage in the first round that goes with it.
“It’s disappointing,” Flyers coach Peter Laviolette said. “Two points is two points. Doesn’t matter whether it’s Tampa or the New York Rangers.”
Dwayne Roloson stopped 35 shots, outplaying Ilya Bryzgalov. The Lightning had just 11 shots through the first 52 minutes, scoring on three of them.
Bryzgalov let the first shot he saw go in for the second time in three games, and the Flyers fell behind 1-0 for the 16th time in 21 games.
St. Louis put the Lightning up 3-2 on a breakaway goal 2:27 into the third. St. Louis got in front of Philadelphia’s defense, took an outlet pass from Tim Wallace, skated in and beat Bryzgalov by lifting a shot just under the crossbar.
Bryzgalov hadn’t allowed more than two goals in his past 11 games.
“We’re not going to quit, that’s for sure,” St. Louis said. “No one in here is going to give up, and we’ll just move onto the next game.”
There was nothing Bryzgalov could do on the fourth goal. Matt Carle turned the puck over behind the Flyers’ net and Wyman poked it in behind an unsuspecting Bryzgalov.
“It just popped out,” Carle said. “It’s gut-wrenching. I want to apologize to all of my teammates and fans who paid for tickets to be there. That’s a tough one to swallow.”
That turned out to be a critical goal because Hartnell fired a slap shot between Roloson’s legs to cut it to 4-3 with 1:13 left. Tom Pyatt’s empty-net goal then sealed the win for the Lightning.
Trailing 2-0 for the fourth time in the past five games, the Flyers started their comeback early in the second when Simmonds scored his first goal in 17 games. Simmonds started a breakaway along the left wing, played give-and-go with Brayden Schenn and tipped a shot in off a centering pass.
“It felt good, but it was bittersweet when it comes with the loss,” Simmonds said.
Read scored his 22nd goal to tie it at 2 late in the second. Kimmo Timonen set it up with a backhanded crossing pass. Read fought off a defender and dove forward to deflect the puck past Roloson. He finished the game tied with Colorado’s Gabriel Landeskog for most goals among rookies.
Malone gave the Lightning a 1-0 lead in the first when he scored a short-handed goal after a turnover by Danny Briere at center ice. Malone stripped the puck away from Briere, broke in and fired a shot into the top corner.
“It was a bad decision,” Briere said. “A lot of bad bounces didn’t go our way. Mentally, we weren’t sharp.”
Stamkos blasted a slap shot through a screen over Bryzgalov’s shoulder with just 1.4 seconds left in the first to make it 2-0. Team captain Vincent Lecavalier held the Lightning record with 52 goals in 2006-07.
“It’s been a tough road for us this year, and Steven is still there, playing, and he has no juice left,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “So, it’s real impressive to see him get that record. What an accomplishment. He just keeps going. He’s still going, and he deserves this.”
Notes: Malone’s goal was just the second short-handed goal this season for Tampa. … D Victor Hedman was a late scratch for the Lightning because of an illness. … Stamkos has 11 goals and five assists in 15 games vs. Philadelphia. … Simmonds hadn’t scored since Feb. 21. He has a career-best 23 goals. … Malone has five goals and 10 assists in his past 19 games. … Timonen’s assist was his 400th in the NHL. … The Lightning won the season series, 3-1. … G Mathieu Garon will start in goal for Tampa at Boston on Tuesday night.
Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.