While his future is far from clear, Martin St. Louis has been stellar in the first two games since the Olympic break, and the Tampa Bay Lightning finally took advantage of one of his scoring binges last time out.
Like the Lightning, the Colorado Avalanche have split their first two contests after the Sochi hiatus and will also seek to build on a victory when Tampa Bay visits Sunday night.
St. Louis has been the subject of trade rumors, and it’s unknown if the Tampa Bay captain will remain with the team past Wednesday’s deadline. He hasn’t let it affect him in the first two games since winning a gold medal with the Canadian team.
St. Louis has scored twice in each contest, and the Lightning (34-21-5) came away with a 4-2 victory in Dallas on Saturday. St. Louis’ second goal came with 5:29 remaining in the second period and helped Tampa Bay maintain its lead after the Stars scored twice to end the frame.
Sami Salo added an insurance goal in the third period, and Ben Bishop made 39 saves as the Lightning bounced back from a 3-2 loss to Nashville on Thursday, the opener to a four-game trip. Unlike Saturday’s game, the Lightning couldn’t build on a two-goal lead in the first 10 minutes of that defeat.
"(St. Louis) comes to play, and that’s what you want in a player," coach Jon Cooper said. "And all this speculation of him being moved or asking for a trade, that doesn’t come into one spot of our locker room of trying to win a hockey game.
"We needed four goals to win tonight, and he had two of them. You need that from one of your go-to guys."
Tampa Bay has dropped four of six on the road and that could help Colorado (38-17-5) build on Friday’s 4-2 victory over visiting Phoenix. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog had a goal and two assists in the third period while helping his team rebound from blowing a two-goal lead in a 6-4 home loss to Los Angeles on Wednesday.
Semyon Varlamov made 40 saves in his first game since a disappointing Olympic finish with Russia on home ice.
"We wanted this one bad," said defenseman Nate Guenin, who scored his first goal since March 19, 2012. "We felt we let one slip away the other night. We really wanted these two points."
The Avalanche have won three of four at home but lost 5-2 in Tampa Bay on Jan. 25 in the only matchup between the teams this season.
Tyler Johnson recorded his first career hat trick in that victory and the center has 17 goals. Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon leads all rookies with 22 and is riding a career-high 10-game point streak.
The No. 1 overall pick in last year’s draft started that run with an assist in the loss to Tampa Bay in January. He has totaled five goals and nine assists during the streak, and had two assists in Friday’s victory.
Tampa Bay is making its first visit to Colorado since a 2-1 overtime defeat Dec. 23, 2011. The Lightning have lost in each of their last four trips to Denver and have two wins in 12 all-time visits.