TAMPA - What a difference a line change can make.
Alex Killorn has two goals and three assists since being moved up to the Tampa Bay Lightning's first line with Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. He scored once and set up two more goals Saturday as the Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
Before the switch, Killorn had not scored a goal in seven games and had only one all season.
"Playing with them allows me to have a lot more room out there because they command so much respect," Killorn said of Stamkos and St. Louis. "They make plays a lot quicker, so you have to make plays quicker, too because they expect the puck back quickly."
Brett Connolly broke a 2-2 tie with his first goal of the season at 8:37 of the third period to put Tampa Bay ahead for good.
Connolly, playing his first game since being recalled from the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League on Thursday, snapped a 2-2 tie when he deflected a shot by Radko Gudas into the net three seconds after a hooking penalty to Vladimir Sobotka expired.
"We threw Connolly out on the second group on the power play because that is what he does," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the sixth player taken in the 2010 NHL Draft. "He's got speed, he's got skill and he can put the puck in the net. For him to get the game-winner, I don't know what's going to happen here in the future but I don't think that's the last goal Connolly will score in the near future. Sometimes you just have to get the monkey off your back and he did it and once that happens the goals usually come in bunches."
Valtteri Filppula, who earned the second assist on Connolly's goal, added some insurance with 3:59 remaining to be played. His backhand shot from the left of the crease hit a defenseman's skate before caroming off the far post and into the net.
Ben Bishop, a St. Louis native, faced his former team and stopped 28 shots for his ninth victory of the season.
Pietrangelo opened the scoring 7:50 into the game when his shot from the blue line went through a tangle of bodies and past Bishop. The goal was Pietrangelo's fourth in the past four games; he leads all NHL defensemen in goals. David Backes and Alexander Steen assisted.
Killorn tied it at 10:44 with an unassisted goal. He picked up a loose puck in the Blues zone, cut across the slot and had his first shot blocked, but recovered the carom and beat Halak for his fourth of the season.
"It was a broken-up play," Killorn said. "St. Louis made a stick play to keep the puck in the zone and I saw I had separation between myself and Pietrangelo. I tried to put the shot through him but he made a great block but it came right to me and I put it on net."
Stamkos put the Lightning ahead at 1:43 of the second period. He and St. Louis broke in 2-on-1 against Halak, and Stamkos roofed a shot from the edge of the crease for his 11th of the season. Killorn and Mark Barberio earned assists; the point was Barberio's first in the NHL. Stamkos now has goals in four consecutive games and is one behind St. Louis forward Alexander Steen for the NHL lead.
That time the lead lasted for just over two minutes, until Jaden Schwartz got the puck in the low slot and ripped a shot past Bishop at 3:45 for his third of the season.
"I thought we had a real push in the third," St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said after the Blues outshot Tampa Bay 14-10 in the final 20 minutes. "But I think we saw this game coming. I don't think we had enough participants. This is a real good evaluation because we have had opponents where we played kind of average and won and now we had to play really good but we were still just above average."
St. Louis entered the game with the top power play in the League but went 0-3 and managed only five shots on net with the extra man.
The Lightning have killed off 16 consecutive opposition power plays.
"I think the lack of participation showed up tonight because of the opponent," Hitchcock said. "The opponent was significant and the lack of participation showed up. It was our worry moving forward."
With the win, Tampa Bay padded their record against Western Conference teams this season to 5-0-0. They get an opportunity to expand on that when they conclude a two-game homestand Thursday against the Edmonton Oilers.
Don't look for any significant changes to the Lightning's top line in that game, since Cooper thinks that Killorn is a good fit.
"You've got to give Killorn a lot of credit," he said, "because he might have been the only guy on the ice for all four goals. He's got two world-class linemates but I thought he more than held his own tonight."
|Alex Pietrangelo (4) ASST: David Backes (8), Alexander Steen (6)|
1 - 0 STL
|Alex Killorn (4) ASST: NONE|
1 - 1 Tie
|Steven Stamkos (11) ASST: Alex Killorn (7), Mark Barberio (1)|
2 - 1 TBL
|Jaden Schwartz (3) ASST: Kevin Shattenkirk (9), Patrik Berglund (4)|
2 - 2 Tie
|Brett Connolly (1) ASST: Radko Gudas (4), Valtteri Filppula (6)|
3 - 2 TBL
|Valtteri Filppula (5) ASST: Alex Killorn (8), Eric Brewer (3)|
4 - 2 TBL
|Valtteri Filppula Holding against David Backes|
|Jordan Leopold Holding the stick against Brett Connolly|
|T.J. Oshie Slashing against Alex Killorn|
|Ryan Malone Roughing against David Backes|
|Mark Barberio Tripping against Vladimir Sobotka|
|Vladimir Sobotka Hooking against Valtteri Filppula|
|Steven Stamkos Cross checking against David Backes|