NEWARK, N.J. — Coming off an embarrassing loss 24 hours earlier and with their playoff chances in desperate need of help, the Tampa Bay Lightning got a lift from one of their old guys — Martin St. Louis.
The 36-year-old St. Louis scored three goals and set up another to lead the Lightning to a much-needed 4-3 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Sunday.
“You want to fight to the end,” St. Louis said after the Lightning bounced back from an 8-1 loss to the Penguins in Pittsburgh. “Every game is important. They are fun games to play, especially when you are in them. Yesterday was obviously not a fun game to play. Tonight, it was a good experience game for our young guys. For us, our playoffs have started. This is our playoffs right now. We are just trying to survive and I think we did that today getting two points.”
With 20 games left in the regular season, the Lightning have 62 points, putting them six points out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“We still do believe,” Tampa Bay center and leading scorer Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning snapped a two-game losing streak. “We have 20 games left and that’s a lot of hockey. If we get going and get on a streak, anything can happen.”
St. Louis had some help. Mathieu Garon made 19 saves and set up St. Louis’ first goal and Teddy Purcell added three assists for Tampa Bay, which has gone 11-5-2 in its last 18.
Alexei Ponikarovsky, Petr Sykora and Zach Parise scored for the Devils, who dropped their second straight game after going 9-1-1 since the All-Star break. The setback spoiled the debut of defenseman Marek Zidlicky, acquired from Minnesota on Friday.
Defenseman Matt Gilroy gave the Lightning the lead for good at 3-2 when he scored 41 seconds after Sykora tied the game. St. Louis led a rush into the Devils’ end and slid a pass under defenseman Bryce Salvador that Gilroy tapped into an open net.
St. Louis, who got his first two goals in the second period, got what proved to be the winner and capped his second hat trick this month and the sixth of his career by re-directing Purcell’s shot from the right side boards past a defenseless Martin Brodeur at 10:18. It was his 22nd goal of the season and sixth in the last six games.