Brad Richards had a goal _ an empty-netter with 13.5 seconds left _ and two assists Wednesday night and the Lightning hung on for their sixth straight win, 5-3 over the Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay owns the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Lightning had their hands full against Chicago _ the West's worst team.
``They play hard,'' Richards said. ``They're a team with nothing to lose. We let them back in the game a couple of times and, to their credit, they never gave up.''
The Lightning also snapped a nine-game winless streak (0-7-2) against Chicago and defeated the Blackhawks for the first time since March 14, 1998.
``We didn't have a tremendous amount of energy, but we found a way to grind it out,'' Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. ``That's a hardworking team.''
Vincent Lacavalier, Cory Sarich and Ruslan Fedotenko each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, 9-0-0-2 in their last 11 and 21-2-1-4 in 28.
Fredrik Modin also scored for Tampa Bay, tied with Philadelphia atop the East with 86 points, two ahead of Toronto and Ottawa.
Martin St. Louis had two assists, and Nikolai Khabibulin made 27 saves for the Lightning.
``Their big guy made some big saves when it was 4-3,'' Blackhawks coach Brian Sutter said. ``We could have gotten a point.''
Tampa Bay has a conference-high 37 victories, one short of the team record set in the 1995-96 season.
Mark Bell, Kyle Calder and Tuomo Ruutu scored for Chicago, winless in four games (0-2-2). Chicago's Adam Munro, playing his second NHL game, stopped 25 shots.
Calder, the Blackhawks' leading goal scorer with 21, broke his left leg when a Lightning player fell on him with seconds remaining in the game. He will miss the rest of the season.
Lacavalier opened the scoring 4:24 in when he took a long pass from Sarich, got by defenseman Jim Vandermeer and broke in alone. Munro made a pad save on Lecavalier's first shot, but Lecavalier was able to stuff in the rebound.
Modin gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead 39 seconds later. While cutting through the crease, he backhanded in Richards' feed from behind the net.
Bell cut it to 2-1 with 22 seconds left in the period. While driving to the net, he popped in a rebound of Vandermeer's shot.
Sarich made it 3-1 at 6:10 of the second with a short-handed goal. He beat Munro with a shot from the right point.
Calder's goal with 5:18 left in the period brought Chicago within 3-2. After Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina couldn't handle a loose puck high in the slot, Calder picked it up and skated in alone on Khabibulin.
Fedotenko ripped in a high shot from the slot at 4:18 of the third to make it 4-2.
Ruutu cut it to 4-3 with a power-play goal midway through the third, deflecting in Anton Babchuck's low slap shot from the left point.
|Vincent Lecavalier (26) ASST: Cory Sarich (13), Ruslan Fedotenko (19)|
1 - 0 TBL
|Freddy Modin (22) ASST: Brad Richards (41), Cory Stillman (41)|
2 - 0 TBL
|Mark Bell (19) ASST: Jim Vandermeer (5), Deron Quint (4)|
2 - 1 TBL
|SHG - Cory Sarich (3) ASST: Martin St. Louis (45), Brad Richards (42)|
3 - 1 TBL
|Kyle Calder (21) ASST: Tyler Arnason (24), Tuomo Ruutu (15)|
3 - 2 TBL
|Ruslan Fedotenko (14) ASST: Martin St. Louis (46), Vincent Lecavalier (27)|
4 - 2 TBL
|PPG - Tuomo Ruutu (14) ASST: Anton Babchuk (2), Bryan Berard (24)|
4 - 3 TBL
|EN - Brad Richards (22) ASST: Cory Stillman (42)|
5 - 3 TBL
|Scott Nichol Holding against Vincent Lecavalier|
|Martin Cibak Interference - Obstruction against Ryan Vandenbussche|
|Martin Cibak Tripping|
|Ryan Vandenbussche Fighting (maj) against Andre Roy|
|Andre Roy Fighting (maj) against Ryan Vandenbussche|
|Johnathan Aitken Hi-sticking against Dimitri Afanasenkov|
|Pavel Kubina Holding the stick against Quintin Laing|
|Johnathan Aitken Fighting (maj) against Andre Roy|
|Andre Roy Fighting (maj) against Johnathan Aitken|
|Dan Boyle Hi-sticking against Mark Bell|