Tampa Bay (20-21-2) defeated Pittsburgh (18-15-7) for the 10th straight time, 3-2 in a shootout on Sunday at Mellon Arena, when Martin St. Louis got the only shootout goal and Johan Holmqvist stopped Sidney Crosby to preserve the victory.
The goal was St. Louis’ first in three shootout attempts this season, and he used an unconventional backhanded approach and shot to beat Marc-Andre Fleury.
“I wanted to try something different, maybe something he hasn’t seen before,” said St. Louis. “I think I caught him off guard a bit, maybe changed things up a little bit.”
The Lightning’s last four victories over the Penguins have all come by one-goal margins.
“This is getting a little old,” Penguins right wing Mark Recchi said.
One of those victories was courtesy of Vincent Lecavalier’s overtime goal in a 4-3 win at Pittsburgh on Nov. 8. Lecavalier, who had an assist Sunday, has 13 goals in his last 10 games against Pittsburgh at Tampa Bay.
He and St. Louis are tied for the team lead with 54 points.
St. Louis, whose 26 goals also lead the Lightning, appears to have rebounded from a lackluster 2005-06, when he had 31 goals and 61 points. However, the 2004 Hart Trophy winner has not scored a goal in six consecutive games against Pittsburgh.
Pittsburgh, which saw its three-game overall winning streak snapped with Sunday’s defeat, hopes to regain some momentum as it starts a three-game road trip against teams with losing records. The Penguins visit Florida on Wednesday and Philadelphia on Saturday before returning home on Jan. 16 against the New York Islanders - the three teams with the fewest points in the East.
Crosby had a goal and an assist Sunday to raise his league-leading point total to 64, as the Penguins rallied to tie the game twice before falling in the shootout.
Crosby scored his third goal in as many games when he fell to his knees and onto his stomach to reach out with his stick and redirect a pass from Recchi past Holmqvist.
“The puck was a little bit ahead, so I just reached for it,” Crosby said. “I just tried to angle my stick up so the puck would get up but I wasn’t sure if it was going to go in.”
The 19-year-old phenom has seven points in six career games against the Lightning, but all the points have come at home. He has been held without a point in two games at St. Pete Times Forum.
Fleury has also struggled against Tampa Bay, with an 0-3-3 record and 3.15 goals-against average in seven games.