Thrashers, Lightning renew Southeast rivalry
Tuesday, 02.02.2010 / 7:00 PM
NHL.comLIGHTNING (22-21-11) at THRASHERS (24-22-8)
Lightning 5-4-1; Thrashers 5-3-2
This is the fifth of six meetings. On Oct. 3, Atlanta's Ilya Kovalchuk opened the season in grand fashion with two goals and an assist in 6-3 home win in the season-opener for both clubs. … On Nov. 22, Steven Stamkos
scored in overtime to give the Lightning a 4-3 road win. Tampa Bay blew two two-goal, third-period leads. … On Dec. 26, Mike Lundin scored his first career goal in his 111th game, Alex Tanguay scored his first goal in 19 games, and Vincent Lecavalier
had three assists to lead Tampa Bay to a 4-3 home win. … On Jan. 23, Jeff Halpern scored in the fifth round of the shootout to give the Lightning a 2-1 home win.
Lightning goalie Antero Niittymaki has never lost to the Thrashers in his six-year career. He enters the contest with a 15-0-0 record, a shutout and a 1.79 goals-against average in his career against Atlanta. Thirteen of the wins have come in 60 minutes. This season, Niittymaki is 2-0-0 with a 1.88 GAA vs. the Thrashers.
"I can't explain it," Niittymaki said following the last matchup, in which he made 37 saves.
This is the finale of a two-game road trip that began with a 3-2 loss at Washington on Sunday.
Trailing 2-0 after two periods, the Lightning received goals from Martin St. Louis
and Stamkos 2:42 apart early in the third period to erase Washington's lead. Alex Ovechkin then regained the lead for the Capitals with a little over six minutes remaining in regulation.
Tampa Bay goaltender Mike Smith, playing his first game since suffering a neck strain on Jan. 12, made 28 saves.
''It's devastating, but we've got to grab some positive out of this third period, some momentum going into the next game,'' St. Louis said. ''I thought we showed a lot of character coming back like that.”
Atlanta returns home for one game after completing a two-game road trip that included a win at Philadelphia and a loss at Nashville.
Atlanta dropped a 4-3 decision in Nashville on Saturday as the Predators snapped a five-game losing streak on Jason Arnott's third-period goal.
Bryan Little had two goals for Atlanta, and Chris Thorburn scored shorthanded. Atlanta ended a two-game winning streak after failing to score twice with the man-advantage after Arnott's goal.
"Our D have to react to come across to the middle," coach John Anderson said. "You just don't say, 'I've got my man,' and that's it. They didn't react."
For the Lightning, Stamkos has 4 goals and 4 assists in five games, Lecavalier has 4 goals and 8 assists in nine games, St. Louis has 9 goals and 8 assists in 16 games, and Kurtis Foster has a goal and 9 assists in 11 games. … For the Thrashers, Little has 2 goals in two games, Jim Slater has 2 goals in two games, and Rich Peverley has 4 goals and 2 assists in eight games.
For the Lightning, Stephane Veilleux (back) is day-to-day. … For the Thrashers, Christoph Schubert (lower-body) is on injured reserve, and Mark Popovic (foot) is day-to-day.
Stamkos and Ryan Malone
of the Lightning are the fourth highest-scoring duo in the NHL with a combined 50 goals. … Since Feb. 17, 2009, Stamkos has 45 goals, third in the League to Ovechkin and Kovalchuk. … St. Louis has recorded two 11-game point streaks this season, coming just two away from tying the franchise record of 13, a record he co-owns with Brian Bradley and Vinny Prospal. … Since the start of the 2001-02 season, Kovalchuk leads all players with 328 goals.
"I certainly haven't seen a ton of signs [that Kovalchuk is distracted by contract talks]. If Kovy has a bad game we just can't go and say that's the reason. Sometimes a player has a bad game. It is what it is. So far I haven't seen it in the dressing room. I hope it doesn't rear its ugly head. Hopefully everything gets done and we don't have to talk about this anymore." -- Anderson to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution on contract talks and trade rumors following Kovalchuk