February 26, 2004 Score Sheet
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are proving they belong among the NHL's elite.
Brad Richards had two goals and an assist and the Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3 Thursday night.
Pavel Kubina and Vincent Lecavalier had the other goals for the Southeast Division-leading Lightning, who have an 18-point lead over second place Florida.
Tampa Bay, 13-1-1-4 over the past 19 games, is just three points behind Philadelphia for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. Toronto also has 80 points, while Ottawa has 82.
"We're on a little roll," Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk said. "We're playing pretty well. We have some confidence. It wasn't our best game, but still came up with the win."
Lightning goalie Nikolai Khabibulin made 19 saves for his 200th career win (200-183-57).
Alex Mogilny, Mats Sundin and Joe Nieuwendyk scored for Toronto, which has lost three straight. The Maple Leafs have dropped five of eight.
"Generally when you go on a swoon, it's because you don't want to work at the checking part of the game," Toronto coach Pat Quinn said. "Some guys right now are probably thinking this game is about them for points and not about the team for points."
Leafs goalie Ed Belfour missed his eighth consecutive game because of a sprained back. Rookie Mikael Tellqvist made his fifth straight start.
Belfour took part in the morning skate, but it was determined he was not ready to play. He has played just once -- Feb. 12 against Columbus -- in the past 12 games. His status is day to day.
The Lightning snapped a 10-game winless streak against Toronto (0-9-1).
"It's a real confidence builder," Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We came out and played well against a team ahead of us."
St. Louis had two assists to tie Washington's Robert Lang for NHL points lead with 74.
Kubina put the Lightning up 1-0 from the low slot midway in the first period. Richards gave Tampa Bay a two-goal advantage on a short-handed breakaway. The Lightning have 13 short-handed goals this season.
Mogilny made it 2-1 on a blast from the slot during a power-play 16 seconds after Richards' goal. It was Mogilny's first goal -- coming in his fifth game -- since returning from a hip injury that sidelined him 40 games. His previous goal came Nov. 15 at San Jose.
Richards, on a power play, and Sundin traded goals during the opening 2:02 of the second period.
Tellqvist later in the period stopped Lecavalier and Martin Cibak on breakaways. He finished with 22 saves.
"We need to get our heads back in the game and pay attention to the defensive part of this game, or we're just going to screw up everything we've worked for all year long," Quinn said. "We've got a lot of guys not doing very good jobs."
Lecavalier scored his fourth goal in the past three games in the third period, then Nieuwendyk got the Maple Leafs within 4-3 on a power-play with 2:44 left.
"It was a tough game," Richards said. "Every time we went up two goals, they scored right away. It just shows you when you play a team like that how tough it is."
Game Notes: St. Louis extended his point streak to 10 games (13 assists and 19 points). ... Sundin also had an assist. He has 24 goals and 48 points in his 35 games against Tampa Bay. ... Richards has four goals and 12 points during a six-game points streak. ... Tampa Bay D Jassen Cullimore did not play because of a bruised shoulder. ... Maple Leafs LW Gary Roberts (groin) missed his seventh consecutive game. He could return for Saturday's game against New Jersey ... Mogilny has 25 goals and 41 points in 33 games against Tampa Bay.