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Lightning win fourth straight

by Brian Compton
For the first time in nearly 2 1/2 years, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won four consecutive games.

Martin St. Louis scored twice in the third period and Antero Niittymaki made 39 saves as Tampa Bay made it four in row for the first time since Nov. 2007 with a 3-1 win against the Vancouver Canucks at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday night.

With the victory, Niittymaki improved to 7-0-1 in his last eight starts, helping the Lightning (26-21-11) move into sole possession of sixth place in the Eastern Conference.

"He kept us in the game," St. Louis said. "Niitty made some big saves for us and I thought we came out strong and played some pretty good minutes in the third. We got some goals and we've been doing a good job playing with the lead in the third. Niitty, obviously, is the backbone of that."

Steven Stamkos continued his phenomenal season with a goal and an assist. The second-year pro now has 33 goals.

"We're playing great as a team right now," said Stamkos, who extended his points streak to 10 games with a power-play tally eight minutes into the game. "It feels good to contribute, especially this time of the year."

Ryan Kesler tied the game with a power-play goal in the final moments of the second period.

Niittymaki stopped a shorthanded breakaway by Alexandre Burrows midway through the second.

"It took us close to 40 minutes to solve him and he shut the door in the third," Kesler said. "We had some real good chances. We just couldn't find a way to beat him."

Vancouver is 2-3 with nine games remaining on its 14-game road trip.

"We played a pretty good game," left wing Daniel Sedin said. "It was a step in the right direction. When you're in a tough stretch like this, you've got to play good defensively and make the simple play."

Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead on St. Louis' shorthanded goal from the slot at 2:52 of the third. He then put the game away on his 20th goal with 4:20 remaining.

Hurricanes 4, Panthers 1 | HIGHLIGHTS

Matt Cullen had a goal and two assists and Manny Legace made 19 saves as Carolina skated past Florida at the RBC Center.

"There's still a chance (of making the playoffs), so we're battling every time we get on the ice.  We're having fun. We have no pressure here, and we're just playing as hard as we can."
-- Tim Gleason

Joni Pitkanen, Tuomo Ruutu and Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Hurricanes, who have won seven of their last nine games.

"There's more confidence in the room than there's been all year," Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. "We're getting good goaltending."

Cory Stillman scored the lone goal for Florida, which has lost four in a row. The Panthers have scored only four goals in that stretch to lose ground in the chase for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Tomas Vokoun made 26 saves in his 19th straight start.

"We're in a tough stretch," Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. "You have to keep working until you get it. That's the key to this League — the lows can't be low, and the highs can't be too high. We're in a low part and we have to fight our way out of it."

With the victory, Carolina (22-30-7) pulled within 10 points of the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.

"There's still a chance (of making the playoffs), so we're battling every time we get on the ice," Hurricanes defenseman Tim Gleason said. "We're having fun. We have no pressure here, and we're just playing as hard as we can."

Jokinen extended his points streak to seven games when he broke a scoreless tie by poking Eric Staal's rebound past Vokoun for a power-play goal. Carolina entered the game having scored on only two of its previous 25 attempts with a man advantage.

Florida tied it when Stephen Weiss set up Stillman with a perfect cross-ice pass. Stillman, who won a Stanley Cup with Carolina in 2006, collected the puck in front of the net and quickly knocked it past Legace. But the Panthers wouldn't score again and were held to just five shots in the third period.

Pitkanen gave Carolina the lead for good late in the second when his shot redirected off Panthers forward Gregory Campbell and past Vokoun. Cullen made it 3-1 at 3:11 of the third before Ruutu tallied an empty-net goal with 1:14 remaining.

"It's night and day — night and day," Legace said of his defense. "That's just hard work and believing in each other."

Islanders 4, Predators 3 (SO) | HIGHLIGHTS

For the first time in nearly three weeks, laughter and smiles were the order of the day for the New York Islanders. That's what can happen when you steal a win to end a seven-game losing streak.

Mark Streit tied the game with 11.1 seconds left in regulation and John Tavares got the winner in the shootout as the Islanders ended their drought with a victory over the Nashville Predators at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.

Rookie Matt Martin got two assists in his NHL debut and Martin Biron stopped 24 shots in his first NHL appearance since Dec. 27, then made three saves in the shootout for his first win since beating Carolina on Nov. 13.

To read's recap, click here.

Material from wire services was used in this report.

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