It would be hasty to say that the Southeast Division might be decided by a 12-game stretch in February, but that might not be that far from the truth. The Tampa Bay Lightning hold a slim three-point lead over the Washington Capitals but could build a serious nest egg if they take advantage of a month-plus stay at home.
(Hopefully everyone on Tampa Bay’s roster is getting along well with their wives/girlfriends/roommates right now.)
Who knows if they’ll get much out of it – after all, they’ll face some tough competition with one game against Washington, two contests against the Philadelphia Flyers and one match versus the Detroit Red Wings – but they certainly started things off with a bang. The Lightning absolutely dominated the Atlanta Thrashers 7-1 tonight.
Steven Stamkos scored a goal to assume the NHL’s points-scoring lead over injured Sidney Crosby as the Lightning earned their fourth win in a row. This marks the 11th consecutive time Tampa Bay beat Atlanta.
A five-goal second period fueled the Lightning’s win. Simon Gagne scored twice, Teddy Purcell provided three assists, Vincent Lecavalier had two helpers and six different Lightning players scored during the game.
A late third period Rich Peverley spoiled a Dwayne Roloson shutout, as the veteran goalie made 21 saves. Ondrej Pavelec allowed three goals on 19 shots and was then replaced by Peter Mannino, who produced similar results (four goals on 20 shots).
Atlanta only has one win in their last eight games, going 1-4-3 in that span.
Tampa Bay’s remaining 11 games are spread out nicely, with a week separating their Tuesday squabble with the Toronto Maple Leafs and their first of two against Philadelphia in this run. The Lightning won’t have many excuses if they don’t win most of these games.