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Honored St. Louis scores twice in Lightning win

The SportsXchange

TAMPA, Fla. -- A return home after 10 days on the road was a spark for the Tampa Bay Lightning, who scored twice in the first four minutes on the way to an easy 5-0 win against the New York Rangers at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

It was an emotional night for Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, honored before the game for playing in his 1,000th career game on the road last week. His parents, wife and children came out on the ice, with tribute messages from current and former teammates and coaches. Then St. Louis went out and scored two goals, one more than he'd scored in the previous 12 games coming in.

"I'll remember tonight for sure," said St. Louis, 38, who added an assist on the night's final goal. "It was a special night, all the messages on the Jumbotron from people that helped me along the way ... to be able to win the game and contribute, I felt like myself tonight, a flash in the past. Hopefully I can build off this and keep the confidence level the way it was tonight."

Nikita Kucherov, a 20-year-old Russian right winger making his NHL debut, scored on his first shift, giving the Lightning the lead on a one-timer past goalie Henrik Lundqvist at 2:12 of the opening period. Less than a minute later, St. Louis made it 2-0, flipping the puck high on a breakaway after intercepting an errant pass.

The Lightning (15-8-1) bounced back convincingly after an 0-3-1 road trip in which they were outscored 17-6.

"You have events like this, you never know how the game is going to go," Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. "For (St. Louis) to contribute the way he did, it's a little storybook there. It was fun. ... In light of the night, of course he was excited, but I think he was more excited just for the fact that he hasn't put the puck in the net lately. Those were a couple of beauties."

Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop, who had 42 saves in a 1-0 overtime loss to the Ducks on Friday at Anaheim, was strong again in net. He made 17 saves in the opening period and finished with 37 in the shutout.

The Rangers (12-12-0) outshot the Lightning 27-22 in the first two periods but couldn't convert their opportunities.

St. Louis scored again early in the second period for a 3-0 lead, giving him 10 for the season. Tampa Bay made it 4-0 late in the second period when right winger Teddy Purcell scored unassisted with 3:08 remaining. Purcell struck again with 1:01 left in the third for the final margin with his seventh goal of the season.

Purcell had four goals in the Lightning's first six games of the year, but just one in the following 17.

Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist allowed four goals on 22 shots over the first two periods. Cam Talbot replaced him in the third period and stopped two of the three shots he saw.

"I don't think it was an awful first, but we made a couple of huge mistakes," said Rangers center Brad Richards, who played in Tampa from 2000-08. "We turned the puck over twice in the neutral zone, and they're a very opportunistic team and they buried them."

The Lightning continue a three-game, five-day homestand on Wednesday against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Rangers stay in Florida to play the Panthers on Wednesday, and they play the Bruins in Boston on Friday.

NOTES: The pregame ceremony honoring St. Louis for playing in his 1,000th career game last week included injured Lightning C Steven Stamkos, who walked on the ice to cheers as he recovers from a broken leg, his first steps on the ice since his injury. He remains optimistic about returning to the team this season. ... Wednesday's home game against Philadelphia will be a homecoming for former Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier, who signed with the Flyers in the offseason after Tampa Bay bought out the final seven years of his contract. He will be honored with the team's Community Hero Award at the game. ... The current Lightning homestand is the team's longest until after the Olympics, when they host six games in a row from March 6-17.
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