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St. Louis leads Lightning past Jets

by Patrick Williams

WINNIPEG -- Martin St. Louis and Victor Hedman may not be heading to the 2014 Sochi Olympics, but the Tampa Bay Lightning had plenty of use for them in a 4-2 win against the Winnipeg Jets on Tuesday.

The omission of St. Louis from the Canadian Olympic team, which was announced Tuesday morning, dominated headlines in the hockey world, and Hedman was a notable omission from the Swedish Olympic team. The pair worked together to break a 2-2 tie with a third-period power-play goal.

St. Louis tipped Hedman's shot past Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with 11:21 left in the third period to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 lead. Jets forward Michael Frolik was in the penalty box on a boarding call against center Nate Thompson.

"That's why he is a champion," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "That's why he has a Stanley Cup ring, and that's why he is our captain. To go through something like that and respond the way he did, I can't say enough about him."

St. Louis finished off the Jets with an empty-net goal with 26.2 seconds remaining. He leads the Lightning with 19 goals.

"I'm happy we got the win," St. Louis said. "Obviously, for Team Canada, you guys can't imagine how I feel. Obviously, I'm extremely disappointed, and I'll just leave it at that. I've said what I have to say about it, and we'll just leave it at that."

Tampa Bay (26-13-4), which wrapped up a four-game trip through Western Canada and Winnipeg with a 3-1-0 record, leads the Eastern Conference with 11 wins against Western Conference teams. After a one-game stop at home Thursday against the Washington Capitals, the Lightning will begin a three-game road trip. In all, they play 10 road games this month.

"I thought we just played an outstanding road game," Cooper said. "That was the plan. It was like, 'Fellas, you look around the League, and two [goals against] is the max we can give up. It's not how many we're going to put in the net; it's how many we're going to keep out.' They made that commitment, and it was fun to watch them play."

The Jets (19-22-5) lost their fourth consecutive game. They struggled to generate offense against Tampa Bay, registering two shots in the first period and reaching the 10-shot mark at 8:45 of the third. The Jets finished with 14 shots, five of them in the final period.

"Certainly, for us this is probably the worst we've played," Jets coach Claude Noel said. "We had nothing. We got a couple of power-play goals, but it was an empty game that we got very little production [from] in any facet of the game. I don't have the answers. I don't have them 15 minutes after that."

Valtteri Filppula, who along with teammate Sami Salo was named to Finland's Olympic team Tuesday, opened the scoring on the game's first shot 1:20 after the opening faceoff. The wrist shot past Pavelec was his 17th goal.

Ondrej Palat, who will represent the Czech Republic at Sochi, extended his point streak to a career-high seven games with a goal in the second period to tie the game at 2-2. He is tied with Jets center Mark Scheifele for the NHL's longest point streak by a rookie this season. Teddy Purcell and Alex Killorn each contributed two assists.

Olli Jokinen, who will play for Finland, and Dustin Byfuglien scored for the Jets between the Filppula and Palat goals.

Anders Lindback started for the Lightning in place of Ben Bishop, who exited the Lightning's 5-3 road loss Sunday against the Edmonton Oilers with a hand injury. Lindback finished with 12 saves. Pavelec stopped 29 of 33 shots.

"It's embarrassing," Pavelec said. "We have to realize that we [are not] losing by accident anymore. It's just the way we play. We can't expect to be successful, that's for sure."

The Jets had managed one shot in the opening 16:30 before minor penalties to Filppula and Lindback 13 seconds apart set up a 5-on-3 power play for Winnipeg. Scheifele reached Jokinen with a cross-crease pass for a tap-in 19 seconds into the two-man advantage. The game-tying goal was Jokinen's11th of the season.

The Jets, whose power play ranked 27th in the League entering the game after an 0-for-13 slide that stretched six games, used the man-advantage to grab a 2-1 lead on their fifth shot of the game. A hooking penalty against Hedman gave the Jets their second power play, and Byfuglien stepped into the Tampa Bay zone before beating Lindback with a low glove-side shot at 3:45. Byfuglien's 10th goal gave him his fifth double-digit season in goals over his past six seasons.

But Palat pulled the Lightning to 2-2, finishing off a 3-on-2 rush by banging Nikita Kucherov's slot pass past Pavelec with 4:23 left in the second period.

Filppula has seven goals and seven assists in his past 11 games. Palat has three goals and five assists during his seven-game point streak.

The teams combined for 66 penalty minutes, including six fighting majors.

The loss left the Jets, who are last in the Central Division and do not play until Saturday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, with more questions to ponder.

"There was no energy," defenseman Mark Stuart said. "It was kind of whatever team woke up was going to win the game. We come back from the road, [and] we lose three games. We come back to our building in front of our fans, and we get what? [Fourteen] shots on net?"

Noel will have a busy week trying to figure out ways to get the Jets back in the win column.

"My first look is going to be in the mirror," Noel said. "You can't always look at everyone else. You've got to look within first. We'll keep it in perspective. We'll have to move past this and move forward. There's going to be a lot of assessment to be done here."

Earlier in the day, Cooper and St. Louis did some assessment of their own while discussing the Lightning captain's Olympic situation.

"It's tough, because I'm sure he probably didn't want to talk about anything," Cooper said. "But I think some things he had to get off his chest a little bit. I think it was a coach and a captain sitting there and probably saying the exact same thing to each other.

"He's a human being, and I know he really wanted to make that team. But he did what he did best [against Winnipeg]. The whistle started, and he came to play. Good for him. I'm really happy for him."

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