TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ The Tampa Bay Lightning took another step toward a second straight division title.
Fredrik Modin had two goals and an assist to help the Southeast Division-leading Lightning beat the Atlanta Thrashers 5-2 on Saturday night.
Dave Andreychuk, Brad Richards and Ruslan Fedotenko added goals, helping the Lightning take an 11-point advantage over the second-place Thrashers. John Grahame made 21 saves to improve to 8-1 in his past nine games.
``We were looking forward to this game because Atlanta is the team closest to us in our division,'' Modin said. ``We knew it was a big, big game for us. We got the job done. It's a good thing for our confidence to know that we can play against these guys.''
Pasi Nurminen made 33 saves for the Thrashers, 0-4-2 in their last six. Zdenek Blatny and Shawn McEachern had the Atlanta goals.
Since Atlanta beat the Lightning 3-1 on Dec. 26, Tampa Bay has gone 12-4-1-2. The Thrashers are 2-11-3-1 during the stretch.
``Forget the division race ... right now we have to get back into the playoff race,'' Atlanta coach Bob Hartley said. ``That has to be our only priority.''
The Thrashers are seven points behind the New York Islanders for the eighth and final Eastern Conference playoff berth.
Atlanta also has been losing the injury battle.
Goalie Byron Dafoe (mild concussion) and defenseman Yannick Tremblay (hip strain) did not play after sustaining injuries Friday night in a 4-1 loss to Toronto.
The Thrashers placed defensemen Garnet Exelby (hip) and Chris Tamer (back) on injured reserve. Exelby has sat out five straight games and Tamer, who played Friday, has missed nine of 10.
The Lightning peppered Nurminen with 23 shots, scoring twice, in the first period.
Modin redirected Darryl Sydor's shot for a power-play goal at 11:18. He then made it 2-0 from the left-circle with 37.2 seconds left in the period.
``Probably one of the better periods we've played all year,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said.
The Thrashers had nearly opened the scoring six minutes into the game. Blatny stole Grahame's pass in the slot, but his shot hit the post.
``We got off to a slow start again,'' Atlanta's Jeff Cowan said. ``It's been our downfall all year. We wanted to come out harder and we didn't. They played with a lot of heart, a lot of passion and that's something we didn't play with tonight.''
Blatny got Atlanta to 2-1 at 2:41 of the second.
The Lightning went up 4-1 on late second period goals by Andreychuk and Richards.
Andreychuk scored from behind the net when he shot the puck off Atlanta defenseman Ivan Majesky at 17:17. Richards extended the Lightning's lead to three at 17:42.
McEachern scored at 5:01 of the third. Fedotenko had an empty goal with 22.7 seconds left.
``The most important thing is to keep it going,'' Modin said.
|PPG - Freddy Modin (16) ASST: Darryl Sydor (15), Dan Boyle (18)|
1 - 0 TBL
|Freddy Modin (17) ASST: Brad Richards (30), Cory Stillman (25)|
2 - 0 TBL
|Zdenek Blatny (3) ASST: Daniel Tjarnqvist (10)|
2 - 1 TBL
|Dave Andreychuk (11) ASST: Tim Taylor (9), Ben Clymer (8)|
3 - 1 TBL
|Brad Richards (12) ASST: Freddy Modin (16), Cory Stillman (26)|
4 - 1 TBL
|Shawn McEachern (11) ASST: Ivan Majesky (3), Daniel Tjarnqvist (11)|
4 - 2 TBL
|EN - Ruslan Fedotenko (10) ASST: Martin St. Louis (30)|
5 - 2 TBL
|Dave Andreychuk Hooking|
|Francis Lessard Holding the stick|
|Chris Dingman Holding|
|Ronald Petrovicky Interference on goalkeeper|
|Jeff Cowan Slashing|
|Freddy Modin Roughing|