Lightning Tops Columbus to Stay Undefeated


Friday, October 24th 2003, 12:00 am
By: News On 6



The days of the Southeast Division being the NHL's weak link might be over.

Nobody can beat the upstart Tampa Bay Lightning, and virtually the same can be said about the surprising Atlanta Thrashers.

The only club to knock off the Thrashers this season was the Lightning, and they needed overtime to do it.

Both teams were back on the winning trail Thursday night as the Lightning (5-0) stayed perfect with a 1-0 road victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Thrashers (4-0-2-1) rallied to beat the Nashville Predators 4-2 at home.

``We feel very confident out there. We know how to win now,'' said Vincent Lecavalier, who scored the Lightning's only goal with 3:48 left. ``It's great that we've won five games. But this game is over and we have to focus on our sixth game.''

John Grahame, filling in for Nikolai Khabibulin, stopped 20 shots for his seventh career shutout in his first start of the season.

In other NHL games, it was Carolina 2, Boston 0; Ottawa 5, Washington 1; Montreal 3, the New York Islanders 0; Colorado 6, Edmonton 1; Toronto 5, Phoenix 4; Chicago 3, San Jose 3; and Buffalo 5, Los Angeles 1.

Lecavalier took advantage of Blue Jackets goalie Marc Denis, stealing the puck from him and scoring on a wraparound. Denis finished with 27 saves for Columbus, which lost its third game in a row.

``When I got it, I knew he was on the other side. I just had to jam it quick,'' Lecavalier said of his second goal this season. ``It's lucky when you get a puck like that behind the net. I can't give myself credit.''

Many, including Thrashers coach Bob Hartley, can take praise for the Thrashers' fast start. Atlanta has dealt with the tragic death of teammate Dan Snyder and is coping without last season's top scorer Dany Heatley, sidelined by injuries caused by the car crash that killed Snyder.

None has done more than Ilya Kovalchuk, who has picked up the scoring slack _ and more playing time _ created by Heatley's absence by netting nine goals in seven games.

He had three Thursday against Nashville to rally the Thrashers from a 2-0 deficit.

``If I gave him any more ice time, I would have to put him in the net,'' Hartley said. ``I don't think he would like that.''

What Kovalchuk does like is putting the puck in the net. He was second, behind Heatley, on the Thrashers last season with 38 goals. His 67 points were third best.

``It's my job to score goals,'' Kovalchuk said. ``I love to score here at Philips Arena. The fans go crazy, everybody is hectic. I like it.''

Nashville's Jordin Tootoo, the first person of Inuit descent to play in the NHL, scored his first career goal to give the Predators a 2-0 lead just 5 1/2 minutes into the first period.

``It's definitely a relief,'' Tootoo said.

But for the second time in two games, Atlanta rallied from a two-goal deficit, this time with three goals in 3 1/2 minutes.

Canadiens 3, Islanders 0

At Montreal, Jose Theodore posted his second shutout of the season, and Yanic Perreault, Marcel Hossa and Andreas Dackell scored for the host Canadiens.

Theodore stopped 34 shots for his 19th career shutout. Montreal has not allowed opponents more than one goal in six games since a season-opening 5-2 loss in Ottawa.

The Islanders had a four-game unbeaten streak (3-0-1) snapped.

Hurricanes 2, Bruins 0

At Boston, Eric Staal scored his first NHL goal and Kevin Weekes made 18 saves as Carolina earned its first victory this season.

Carolina (1-2-3) hadn't won since March 12, going 0-11-5 in that span _ dating to last season. The Hurricanes were the last NHL team to win this season.

Boston had a four-game winning streak and five-game unbeaten streak snapped. Senators 5, Capitals 1

At Ottawa, Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist as the Senators beat Washington.

Radek Bonk, Bryan Smolinski, Daniel Alfredsson and Zdeno Chara also scored for the Senators. Martin Havlat had two assists in his first game since signing a one-year contract.

Peter Bondra scored for the Capitals, winless in their last six games (0-5-1).

Maple Leafs 5, Coyotes 4

At Phoenix, Owen Nolan had two goals and an assist in Toronto's best offensive showing this season.

Nik Antropov, Joe Nieuwendyk and Ken Klee also scored for the Maple Leafs, who came in with 10 goals in six games.

Ladislav Nagy scored two power-play goals, and Jan Hrdina and Daymond Langkow also tallied for Phoenix, which has lost three in a row since the franchise's first 3-0 start in 15 years.

Sabres 5, Kings 1

At Los Angeles, Taylor Pyatt had a power-play goal and a short-handed tally, and Curtis Brown also scored short-handed for Buffalo.

Miroslav Satan had a power-play goal, Chris Taylor also scored, and Martin Biron made 25 saves.

Blackhawks 3, Sharks 3

At San Jose, Calif., Tom Preissing scored his first NHL goal to help San Jose tie Chicago.

Patrick Marleau and Nils Ekman also scored for the Sharks, who are winless (0-2-2) in four home games.

Brett McLean scored two goals for the Blackhawks, who dropped to 0-3-1 on the road. Mark Bell also scored for Chicago.

Avalanche 6, Oilers 1

At Denver, Peter Forsberg scored three goals, and Milan Hejduk added a goal and two assists as Colorado ended a two-game losing streak.

The hat trick was the seventh of Forsberg's career and gave him 202 career goals. Forsberg has scored 20 times against Edmonton, his highest total against any team.

Adam Foote and Dan Hinote added goals for the Avalanche, who were beaten by the Oilers 6-3 on Oct. 18.

Ethan Moreau scored for the Oilers, who lost three players to ejection.