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Lightning beat Jackets for fourth straight win

by Lonnie Herman
TAMPA -- If the Tampa Bay Lightning are going to make a run at a playoff berth, the scenario couldn't be setting up any better.

The Lightning extended their winning streak to a season-high four games by defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 4-2 on Tuesday night behind the play of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, each of whom had a goal and an assist in the second period to break open a 1-1 game.

Lecavalier's goal -- which came via the power play -- was his 19th of the season and extended his scoring streak to six games. St. Louis scored his 12th of the season and has 21 points (three goals, 18 assists) in his last 16 games.

It's a great way for the Bolts to hit the All-Star break, even if they are still nine points out of the last playoff berth in the East with 34 games remaining.

"I don't think we'd like to have the (All-Star) break right now in terms of how we're rolling in games," St. Louis said. "But if you're going to get a break, you want to finish on a winning note."

Even better is the fact that the Lightning will come out of the break with four consecutive games at home, where they are 13-7-1.

"This is a good situation," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of the schedule and his team's improved play. "We've got a lot of home games to catch up on and several players that are injured will be ready to go soon. The team showed a lot of character and there is a lot of hope on what we can do after the break. Every game is important but I think if we can keep on playing at home like that and keep on playing better and better on the road, it's fun to see."

Tampa Bay rookie Mike Angelidis opened the scoring at 13:20 of the first period. Angelides, who was playing in his first NHL game after being called up from AHL Norfolk, scored on his first NHL shot, a backhander from a bad angle that flipped over Curtis Sanford's shoulder.

"It felt unbelievable," Angelidis said. "During the celebration I thought I was going to faint. It's a dream come true."

Defenseman Brett Lebda tied the game at 15:07 with his first goal as a Blue Jacket. After the second-period goals by Lecavalier and St. Louis, Ryan Johansen got his ninth of the season at 5:40 of the third. But Nate Thompson scored his fifth of the season at 11:29 to restore the Lightning's two-goal lead.

Columbus, playing the second of back-to-back games, did not arrive in Tampa until the early-morning hours Tuesday after losing in Nashville 4-1 on Monday night.

"We're looking for the energy," Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards said. "I know there are circumstances at times that make it difficult, but I still thought that for a 60-minute game, that we could have and should have been better in certain areas."

Mathieu Garon, who played 71 games with the Blue Jackets from 2009-11 before signing with the Lightning last summer, won his second consecutive game against his former team, stopping 22 shots for his 14th win of the season.

But despite the all-around effort, it was the performance and force of Lecavalier and St. Louis that propelled Tampa Bay to the win -- something that was no surprise to one onlooker.

"They're great players," said Vinny Prospal, who played 468 games as a member of the Lightning. "They've been doing that for a long time. They play for a different team so it's painful to watch."
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