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Tampa Bay widens its Southeast lead

2/25/2004

ATLANTA (AP) -- Vincent Lecavalier had the perfect answer for
Marc Savard's game-tying goal.

"I hadn't scored on a breakaway in a long time," Lecavalier
said. "If you don't score on a breakaway, it does something to
your confidence."

Lecavalier sneaked behind the Atlanta defense with 1:24
remaining for his second goal Wednesday night as the streaking
Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Thrashers 4-2.

Tampa Bay won at Philips Arena for the first time in eight
games. Brad Richards scored early in the third period, Cory Stillman added an empty-net goal and Nikolai Khabibulin stopped 23 shots.

But Savard beat Khabibulin with an 8-foot wrist shot from the
left circle after Shawn McEachern passed the puck across the slot
on a power play with 12:33 remaining.

"We can't lose games in the last minute," Savard said. "We
work all year on defensive zone, and that's where you've got to
come up big."

More than 11 minutes after Savard's 19th goal, Lecavalier knew the window was open once he saw the Thrashers try to pin Martin St. Louis against the boards. He was skating toward the slot when St. Louis fed him with a pass from center ice.

"I was hoping he would get it to me, and he did," Lecavalier
said. "I wasn't sure what the puck would do."

Earning his 26th point in the last 18 games, Lecavalier faked
out Pasi Nurminen with a 17-foot wrist shot that beat the
goaltender on his stick side. The Lightning improved to 11-2-0-3 in
their last 16 road games. Tampa Bay has lost in regulation just
twice in 24 games overall.

Atlanta fell to 5-18-3-1 since beating the Lightning 3-1 on Dec.
26. The Thrashers had an eight-point lead over Tampa Bay in the
Southeast Division after that game but now trail the Lightning by
22 points. In that same time span, Tampa Bay is 19-5-2-4.

Lecavalier made it 1-0 by putting in his own rebound on the
right side of the crease in the first period.

"It was great to get our two points and get out of here,"
Lecavalier said. "We've had trouble against them."

Atlanta forward Ilya Kovalchuk, tied with Columbus' Rick Nash
for the NHL lead in goals (33), missed both of his shots. Kovalchuk
entered with four goals and three assists in his last four games.

Ben Simon's third goal made it 1-1 four minutes after Lecavalier
opened the scoring. Skating toward the right side of the crease,
Simon wristed in a rebound after Khabibulin stopped Shawn Heins'
wraparound.

Arguably Khabibulin's best stop came against Kovalchuk. With
defenseman Dan Boyle helping to push Kovalchuk away from the goal,
Khabibulin reached to his right to stop the shot from the left
circle with 3:04 remaining.

"There was one of our defensemen he had to go around, so that
gave me some time," Khabibulin said. "He made a great shot, but
it kind of hit me in the shoulder."

Khabibulin improved to 18-15-6 and won for the second straight
night, following a 6-3 victory at Washington. Nurminen fell to
20-23-5.

Game notes
The Lightning entered with a 1-8-3 all-time record in
Atlanta. ... Tampa Bay hadn't won at Philips Arena since March 21,
2001, when it took a 4-3 victory. ... Atlanta entered with nine
injured players; the Lightning had none. ... Tampa Bay acquired
defenseman Timo Helbling from Nashville on Wednesday for an
eighth-round pick in the 2004 draft. ... The Thrashers, who entered
with 22 healthy players on the roster, claimed forward Brad Larsen
off waivers from Colorado. General manager Don Waddell said Larsen
would join the team at practice Thursday.