GLENDALE, Ariz. -- He hit the post in the first period and was robbed by the pad of Phoenix goalie Ilya Bryzgalov in the second. But Steven Stamkos stuck with it and finally got his man -- and his NHL-best ninth goal of the young season -- to make sure Tampa Bay started a four-game Western swing on the right foot.
Ugly goals were the order of the night, with both Mattias Ritola and Adam Hall scoring goals for Tampa off the skates for Coyotes defensemen. But Stamkos provided the exclamation point of Saturday’s 3-0 win over Phoenix with artful grace, slipping in alone and tumbling a backhander over a helpless Bryzgalov as the Lightning earned their seventh win in 10 games this season.
"I had lots of chances and it was about time I buried one," said Stamkos, who has more goals (76) than any other player since February of 2009. "We played really solid defensively and got rewarded. It was probably our best team effort of the year."
Ritola scored his first NHL goal to break a scoreless tie at 15:59 of the second period when his stuff attempt ping-ponged off the skate of Coyotes defenseman Keith Yandle. Hall made it 2-0 4:28 into the third when his redirection caught the skate of Phoenix’s David Schlemko. Those types of goals have been more the norm for Tampa, which averages 3.5 goals a game, but not many that are highlight-worthy.
"I would say 80 percent of our goals come that way, and 80-85 percent of the goals in the NHL are ugly goals," Tampa coach Guy Boucher said. "You watch the highlights and you have a tendency to think it’s all pretty plays. But it’s the ugly goals that make the difference."
Dan Ellis, who came on in relief of Mike Smith on Wednesday and stopped all 24 shots as Tampa rallied to beat Pittsburgh, fired blanks again and stopped all 23 Phoenix shots to record his 11th career shutout and first this season. The Lightning have now won five of their last six trips to Arizona.
The Coyotes, missing three regulars and stifled all night by Tampa’s defense, were doubly frustrated when Lightning defenseman Pavel Kubina was involved in a knee-to-knee hit on Yandle with 7:06 to go. Phoenix captain Shane Doan immediately instigated a fight that ended with him earning a game misconduct that ended his night.
Kubina said there was no intent on the play but Yandle and Doan both saw it differently.
"When it's such a dirty hit like that, someone is going to step up and do something," Yandle said. "I had him wide and he just stuck out his knee deliberately. There’s no room in the game for that."
Doan, coming off a three-game suspension of his own recently, added: "Yands is pretty important to us. You have to react when you see his knee come out that far."
The Coyotes (3-4-3) failed to muster much in the way of an offensive threat Saturday, getting shut out for the second time this year and scoring two goals or less for the fifth time in 10 games. Center Martin Hanzal missed his fifth straight game with an upper body injury, and defenseman Derek Morris (groin) also sat out. Meanwhile, winger Wojtek Wolski, without a goal in his first eight games and in coach Dave Tippett’s doghouse, was a healthy scratch for the second straight night.
Tippett said there are more Coyote forwards worthy of joining him in the press box.
"We have a lot of players that stats-wise can contribute a lot more," Tippett said. "If you look at our top forwards we have no goals from Doan, no goals from Wolski and no goals from (Ray) Whitney. These are people we rely on for skill. At some point we need to have them contribute and the first 10 games -- we don’t have anything."
Martin St. Louis played his 400th consecutive game Saturday. The 35-year-old holds the fourth-longest ironman streak in the league behind Jay Bouwmeester of Calgary (434), Henrik Sedin of Vancouver (426) and Brad Boyes of St. Louis (417). None of them are even halfway to the all-time NHL record set by Doug Jarvis (964). St. Louis missed two games with a finger injury suffered in practice during the 2005-06 season, and had played every game in the two previous seasons.
Left wing Simon Gagne (neck) missed his fourth straight game and did not travel with the team. The Lightning said he isn’t experiencing any concussion symptoms but haven’t completely ruled it out. Tampa also lost defenseman Matt Smaby on Saturday morning when he injured his ankle warming up with teammates who kick around a soccer ball at the team hotel. The injury leaves Tampa Bay with six healthy defensemen after sending Mike Vernace to AHL Norfolk.
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Martin St. Louis