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Lightning overwhelm Jets 8-3

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning warmed up for a much-anticipated visit from the New York Rangers by beating up on the Winnipeg Jets.

The NHL's highest-scoring offense was in top form Friday night as the Lightning rolled over the road-weary Jets 8-3 in front of a packed house at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. Many of the 19,204 fans figure to be back Saturday night when the Rangers come to town.

The Lightning entered the night averaging a League-high 4.83 goals per game -- and raised that figure with the highest output by any team in the first two weeks of the new season. They led 3-0 after one period and 6-0 after two, allowing coach Guy Boucher to focus on Saturday's game during the third period.

"This was a weird game to coach," he said. "We were up 6-0 early. If we didn't have a game tomorrow we would have played differently and I would have coached differently. I would have pushed the pace. We were just trying to get through the rest of the game without injuries and the least problems happening."

Cory Conacher scored twice and tacked on two assists to take the rookie scoring lead with 12 points, and Steven Stamkos had a goal and two assists to extend his scoring streak to seven games as the Lightning improved to 6-1-0, including 5-0-0 at home. Tampa Bay's 37 goals are the most in the NHL, six more than runner-up St. Louis has scored in eight games.

The Lightning scored three more power-play goals -- all in the first period -- on five attempts. They're now 12-for-35 (34.3 percent) for the season and 11-for-26 (42.3 percent) at home.

"The power play has been doing very good and the players are comfortable in it," Boucher said. "You got to watch out in thinking it's just [Martin] St. Louis and Stamkos on the power play. [Vincent] Lecavalier's power-play scored tonight, too.

"That's the difference because we don't just have one power play now, we have two, and one is just as good as the other. And they are different, too. They have different looks; we've built a different look for the other power play. There is no longer a ‘number one' or ‘number two' power-play. That makes a difference."

Conacher opened the scoring at 7:57, and the Lightning then scored a pair of 5-on-3 goals following a major penalty to Chris Thorburn at 12:11 for checking Sami Salo from behind. Ron Hainsey and Mark Stuart took minor penalties during the five-minute major, giving Tampa Bay 2:15 of 5-on-3 power-play time, and both Stamkos and Lecavalier beat Ondrej Pavelec to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead after one period.

Conacher scored 26 seconds into the second period, tipping in Eric Brewer's shot, and Nate Thompson ended Pavelec's night when he scored his first of the season at 4:43. But his replacement, Al Montoya, fared no better and had a rude reception as Teddy Purcell scored from the slot a minute after the goaltending change to make it 6-0.

Winnipeg got third-period goals from Tobias Enstrom, Paul Postma and Andrew Ladd. For Postma, it was his first in the NHL.

"It's kind of a different situation to get it [first NHL goal]," Postma said, "but regardless, it's nice to get that first one, get it out of the way. It's definitely a special goal and one I won't forget."

The late goals made the game appear more competitive than it was.

"That was them pushing because they have pride and us just trying to get by this and keep our energy for tomorrow," Boucher said about the late goals. "That's the reality."

Tampa Bay got third-period goals from Ryan Malone and Benoit Pouliot. Anders Lindback made 26 saves for his fourth consecutive win.

The Jets, who left Winnipeg this week with a three-game winning streak, lost for the third time in four nights. They allowed five goals in the third period of a 6-3 loss at Florida on Thursday and surrendered three in each of the first two periods against the Lightning.

"I don't think anybody's happy about it," coach Claude Noel said of his team's struggles. "How could you be? The one thing I know is the players care, and they care about their game, and they care about each other. We're going to build off of that, and we're going to try to get some positive vibes in this thing. And it will start in practice, and we'll go from there. ... We need to turn this thing back to the way that we're capable of playing.

"Sometimes you've got to hit rock bottom or whatever to figure out that you've had enough of this stuff. Our job is to find solutions to these things, and for me, I know how our team can play and that's what we have to get back to doing."

Winnipeg will have three days to figure it out before Florida comes to the MTS Centre on Tuesday night.

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