CHICAGO (AP) _ The Tampa Bay Lightning gutted their way to an important
victory over the Chicago Blackhawks.
Brad Richards had a goal _ an empty-netter with 13.5 seconds left _ and two
assists Wednesday night and the Lightning hung on for their sixth straight win,
5-3 over the Blackhawks.
Tampa Bay owns the best record in the Eastern Conference, but the Lightning
had their hands full against Chicago _ the West's worst team.
``They play hard,'' Richards said. ``They're a team with nothing to lose. We
let them back in the game a couple of times and, to their credit, they never
The Lightning also snapped a nine-game winless streak (0-7-2) against
Chicago and defeated the Blackhawks for the first time since March 14, 1998.
``We didn't have a tremendous amount of energy, but we found a way to grind
it out,'' Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. ``That's a hardworking team.''
Vincent Lacavalier, Cory Sarich and Ruslan Fedotenko each had a goal and an
assist for the Lightning, 9-0-0-2 in their last 11 and 21-2-1-4 in 28.
Fredrik Modin also scored for Tampa Bay, tied with Philadelphia atop the
East with 86 points, two ahead of Toronto and Ottawa.
Martin St. Louis had two assists, and Nikolai Khabibulin made 27 saves for
``Their big guy made some big saves when it was 4-3,'' Blackhawks coach
Brian Sutter said. ``We could have gotten a point.''
Tampa Bay has a conference-high 37 victories, one short of the team record
set in the 1995-96 season.
Mark Bell, Kyle Calder and Tuomo Ruutu scored for Chicago, winless in four
games (0-2-2). Chicago's Adam Munro, playing his second NHL game, stopped 25
Calder, the Blackhawks' leading goal scorer with 21, broke his left leg when
a Lightning player fell on him with seconds remaining in the game. He will miss
the rest of the season.
Lacavalier opened the scoring 4:24 in when he took a long pass from Sarich,
got by defenseman Jim Vandermeer and broke in alone. Munro made a pad save on
Lecavalier's first shot, but Lecavalier was able to stuff in the rebound.
Modin gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead 39 seconds later. While cutting through
the crease, he backhanded in Richards' feed from behind the net.
Bell cut it to 2-1 with 22 seconds left in the period. While driving to the
net, he popped in a rebound of Vandermeer's shot.
Sarich made it 3-1 at 6:10 of the second with a short-handed goal. He beat
Munro with a shot from the right point.
Calder's goal with 5:18 left in the period brought Chicago within 3-2. After
Tampa Bay defenseman Pavel Kubina couldn't handle a loose puck high in the
slot, Calder picked it up and skated in alone on Khabibulin.
Fedotenko ripped in a high shot from the slot at 4:18 of the third to make
Ruutu cut it to 4-3 with a power-play goal midway through the third,
deflecting in Anton Babchuck's low slap shot from the left point.