The Tampa Bay Lightning are starting to look like the team that led the Southeast Division for much of this season again.
Dwayne Roloson made 29 saves Saturday afternoon as the Lightning claimed a 3-1 victory against the Minnesota Wild at Xcel Energy Center. It was Tampa Bay's fourth consecutive victory. The Lightning had lost 10 of 12 since the beginning of March before the current surge.
Tampa Bay is now one point back of Pittsburgh for fourth place in the Eastern Conference, though the Penguins are in action Saturday night against the Florida Panthers.
"We play really well when we have the momentum, and we're playing with a little bit of a swagger," Roloson told reporters.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard gave Minnesota the lead with the lone goal of the first period. Bouchard put home a rebound of Kyle Brodziak's shot after a Tampa Bay turnover near center ice.
It was Bouchard's 11th goal of the season. He missed all but one game last season and didn't play this campaign until Dec. 1 because of a concussion, but he has 34 points in 55 games for the Wild.
Ryan Malone had missed 26 of 27 games because of a pair of injuries before returning Thursday against Pittsburgh, and he got Tampa Bay on the board early in the second period. Malone collected a pass from Dominic Moore as he drove toward the top of the crease and slipped a backhanded shot between the legs of Minnesota goaltender Niklas Backstrom.
Malone's momentum carried him into Backstrom, who was shaken up on the play but remained in the game. It was his 12th tally of the season.
"I think I had about two seconds to enjoy that one before I got plowed into," Malone told Erik Erlendsson of the Tampa Tribune.
Steve Downie pushed Tampa Bay in front at 9:05 of the middle period. Eric Brewer sent the puck towards the Minnesota net from the top of the offensive zone, and Simon Gagne was able to steer it towards Downie at the left edge of the crease for his 10th goal of the season.
Sean Bergenheim made it a two-goal advantage at 7:58 of the third. Martin St. Louis carried the puck into the zone with Bergenheim on a 2-on-1 after a pair of Wild players got tangled up in the neutral zone. Bergenheim beat Backstrom with a shot up high to the short side for his 14th.
St. Louis's assist gives him 63 for the season and 93 points -- both are good for second in the NHL behind a Sedin brother. Daniel Seadin leads the League with 100 points while Henrik has 72 assists.
Minnesota was eliminated from playoff contention with the loss.
"It's always tough," Backstrom told players. "It's going to be a long time before we have another chance to fight for the cup."
1 - 0 MIN
1 - 1 Tie