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Lightning beat Leafs behind St. Louis' four points

by Brian Hunter
An old pro got the Tampa Bay Lightning rolling, while a newcomer in net made sure they held on for two points.

Martin St. Louis set up three goals and scored another during a 4:13 span of the first period and Mike McKenna stopped 21 shots in his fourth NHL start as the Lightning topped the Toronto Maple Leafs 6-4 on Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.

Ryan Malone scored two of those early goals and Mark Recchi had another before St. Louis made it 4-1 and chased starter Vesa Toskala. After the Leafs scored twice in the second period to draw within a goal, Steven Stamkos and Vincent Lecavalier added goals in the third and McKenna made them stand up.

"Wide-open, I think, kind of described how the game was at times," McKenna said after improving to 2-1-1 in his young career. "Something like that, the game takes on its own life. It sometimes becomes more of a matter of making the right save at the right time and trying to keep the momentum on your side."

McKenna did just that, stopping nine of the 10 shots he faced in the third. Stamkos scored Tampa's third power-play goal of the night at 6:01 and Lecavalier's team-high 25th of the season with 6:32 left gave the Lightning a 6-3 edge.

"Our team's been persistent all year," said Stamkos, whose goal was the seventh of his rookie season. "We're battling back and we believe that we're still alive in this playoff hunt."

Tampa still has a long way to climb -- the Bolts are 13 points out of a postseason berth, but they've closed to within a single point of Toronto for 11th in the Eastern Conference.

Lee Stempniak scored twice for the Leafs, who also received goals from Niklas Hagman and Nikolai Kulemin, but couldn't recover from a Lightning blitz that began with 7:30 left in the first.

Stempniak had started the scoring for the Leafs at 10:58, but Malone quickly tied the game at 12:30 and then put the Lightning ahead 54 seconds later with his 18th of the season.

Toronto defensemen Ian White and Pavel Kubina then took penalties 1:01 apart and Tampa's power play took full advantage. Recchi converted on the 5-on-3 with 4:43 left in the period and St. Louis, who had assisted on the first three Lightning goals, scored on the ensuing one-man advantage 1:26 later with a backhander over the shoulder of Toskala.

"I think our power play got us going early on," said St. Louis, whose 54 points are tops on the team. "We were skating hard. We threw pucks on net, and good things happen."

Toskala stopped eight shots before he was lifted in favor of Curtis Joseph following St. Louis' goal.

"I couldn't make the saves we need to keep us in the game," Toskala said.

Nevertheless, the Leafs battled their way back on Stempniak's second of the game, a power-play tally 11:32 into the second, and a goal by Hagman 1:14 later. It was suddenly 4-3, but McKenna held firm after that.

"I think the mark of a good goalie is -- yeah, he had a couple bad goals, and he'll be the first to tell you -- to bounce back, to compete," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "I know the best in the business was a guy like Grant Fuhr -- he might let a couple goals in early in the first period, I remember playing Edmonton, but then that was it, he'd shut you (out) the rest of the way. And that's what (McKenna) did, he made a couple big saves for us and kept us going."

Joseph made 17 saves and was playing shutout hockey into the third when Stamkos solved him, a personal highlight for the top pick in last June's Entry Draft.

"I grew up watching the Leafs and idolizing them," the 19-year-old Markham, Ont., native said. "He was a big part of their great teams. ... It was pretty cool to get one by him."

Kulemin closed the scoring with 2:13 left but it was too little, too late for Toronto, which left Florida with losses to the Lightning and Panthers despite scoring four goals in each game.

"We're scoring four or five goals and that's not enough to get two points, let alone one," Maple Leafs coach Ron Wilson said.

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.

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