TAMPA, Fla. (AP) _ If there's one word Tampa Bay Lightning coach John
Tortorella can use to describe his team it's consistent.
``You can't even put on one hand how many games we haven't been ready to
play,'' Tortorella said Friday night after the Southeast Division champions set
a franchise record for points in a season by extending their unbeaten streak to
11 games with a 5-2 victory over the New York Rangers.
``Now's not the time to bring it in and be counting them on two hands. This
is a time where we really need to stay on top of things. We're spending our
days with our tape, going over the minute things.''
NHL points leader Martin St. Louis scored two goals and assisted on a third
for the Lightning, who increased their lead in the race for the Presidents'
Trophy to three points over Western Conference leader Detroit.
Vincent Lecavalier had two goals and two assists, while the victory gave the
Lightning 95 points _ two more they amassed last season when they won their
first division title and made their first playoff appearance in seven years.
``They have lots of confidence right now,'' New York's Karel Rachunek said.
``They move the puck perfectly and shoot from everywhere.''
St. Louis' goals were his 33rd and 34th of the season, setting a career high
for the All-Star winger. With 50 assists, he has 84 points.
Tampa Bay improved to 26-3-2-4 since Jan. 3 and its 18-game points streak
(14-0-2-2) is the longest in the NHL this season. The Lightning have won a
league-best seven straight at home and haven't lost anywhere in regulation
since Feb. 2.
``This is a good hockey club, the No. 1 team in the National Hockey League,
and not by accident,'' Rangers coach Tom Renney said. ``As much as you want to
respect your opponent, we probably respect them to the point where we stood
still and let them control the hockey game.''
Lecavalier set up Cory Stillman's power-play goal in the opening period. He
got his second assist on St. Louis' first goal, then took advantage of a lucky
bounce to give Tampa Bay a 3-0 lead.
The Lightning center scored when Mark Messier's clearing pass glanced off
St. Louis' skate and bounded back toward the New York goal to Lecavalier, who
beat goalie Mike Dunham from the right circle.
The Rangers trimmed their deficit to 3-2 with goals by Tom Poti and Jan
Hlavac within a two-minute span of the second period. It stayed that way until
St. Louis and Lecavalier answered with their second goals of the night in the
first seven minutes of the final period.
``Marty scored and then I scored right after that,'' Lecavalier said. ``It's
not a secret. We weren't winning the battles (in the second period). We weren't
sharp. But we talked about it in the locker room and came out and played hard
in the third and won the game.''