Lightning are white hot after rout of in-state rival Florida
Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning have remained on a roll even without star Steven Stamkos.
St. Louis had a goal and two assists and the Lightning extended their winning streak to five games with a 6-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday.
St. Louis had an assist on Tyler Johnson's tap-in goal off a wide shot off the boards by Victor Hedman and added another on Valtteri Filppula's power-play goal less than five minutes later for a 3-1 Lightning lead.
St. Louis scored his 16th goal of the season when his batted shot eluded Florida goaltender Scott Clemmensen for a 4-1 advantage after two periods.
''When (Steven Stamkos) went down, we had that sense of shock, but won some games. Then reality set in. It set in when we went out West,'' Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
''Marty went into a little bit of a funk at that time when Stammer was gone. I don't think we've had a better player on our team in the last eight games than (Marty). He's the captain and he's led the way for us.
''Marty has clearly put the team on his back of late.''
Alex Killorn tied the game for Tampa Bay 19 seconds after Sean Bergenheim gave Florida a 1-0 lead on a power-play goal past Lightning goalie Ben Bishop.
''Marty was huge. He opened up the floodgates and made some great plays and scored a pretty nice goal, too,'' Killorn said.
''He's obviously a leader on our team, and we look to him for strong play. He came up huge in the second, and everyone kind of followed his lead.''
The Lightning are 10-2-2 in games when St. Louis has appeared on the scoresheet since Stamkos broke his leg on Nov. 11.
''I feel good out there adjusting to new linemates,'' said St. Louis, who is on a five-game point streak. ''It's been fun. The young guys have a lot of energy. When you're winning and contributing, that's a fun feeling.
''I definitely took it as a challenge and want to deliver.''
In his first full season behind the Lightning bench, Cooper has watched his club jump out to a quick start and hold a strong 23-11-3 record despite having Stamkos sidelined.
Cooper said the key to beating the Panthers by five goals — they also beat them 7-2 in the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Oct. 10 — was the quick answer after the Panthers took the early lead.
''It wasn't so much the second (period), it was the answer after they scored. We had a couple of really good penalty kills and made an unfortunate error that ended up in the back of our net. A big turning point for us was scoring on the next shift,'' Cooper said.
''We went into the room 1-1 and we came out flying. It helped to get the 5-on-3. We smelled it. The boys got after it.
''We're riding some momentum going into Christmas.''
Florida coach Peter Horachek was disappointed in his team's effort, especially returning home after going 3-1 on a tough road swing through Canada with wins over Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa.
''The guys didn't really have a lot of push-back. It was probably the worst game since I've been here for sure,'' the interim coach said.
NOTES: Florida F Scottie Upshall (upper body) was hurt in the first period and didn't return. . . . Tampa Bay D Sami Salo (upper body) left in the second period and didn't return. . . . Florida G Tim Thomas remained on the injured reserve (retroactive to Dec. 12) and missed his sixth straight game after being hurt nearly two weeks ago in practice. . . . With the win in the teams' third meeting, Tampa Bay won the first annual Governor's Cup, created during the offseason by Florida Gov. Rick Scott. . . . Tampa Bay and Florida are both idle through the holiday break before hosting games Saturday — the Lightning against Montreal, the Panthers playing Detroit.