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Caged Halpern sparks Lightning

ST. LOUIS — Jeff Halpern rolled his eyes when asked if what he did Friday night was a big deal.

"No," he said, "I've seen guys hurt a lot worse."

Perhaps, but not as many made as big an impact.

The Lightning center, hit in the mouth by a puck Thursday against the Red Wings and wearing a full cage to protect 12 stitches in his upper lip and a dangling tooth supported by new bridgework, scored twice in the third period in Tampa Bay's 6-3 victory over the Blues to help end a six-game losing streak.

More important, each of his goals re-established two-goal leads as St. Louis kept charging.

"He showed a lot of guts," center Steven Stamkos said. "It shows what kind of leader he is on this team and what kind of player he is."

"His teeth got shattered pretty good," coach Rick Tocchet said. "People know when they go to the dentist and have teeth done, it hurts, and he's got to play an NHL game. It shows you a lot about a guy like him."

The game showed something about Tampa Bay (12-14-9), which had yet to win on a six-game road trip that wraps up Monday against the Islanders.

"We told ourselves we weren't going to leave this rink without two points," said captain Vinny Lecavalier, whose two assists gave him 700 career points.

"It was a huge game for this team."

And it got some huge efforts while scoring a season-high six goals, one more than it had in its previous four games combined.

Right wing Marty St. Louis had a goal and three points and was plus-4. Stamkos had two goals, including his team-best 20th into an empty net.

Defenseman Kurtis Foster had a goal and an assist, and goaltender Antero Niittymaki made 23 saves to win for the first time since Nov. 22.

But it was Halpern's timely goals that kept the game from squirting away.

The first came 4:12 into the third, 14 seconds after the Blues closed to 3-2 on T.J. Oshie's goal. His second, and seventh of the season, came with 8:45 left, 2:12 after Keith Tkachuk's power-play goal made it 4-3.

"And look where the goals were," Tocchet said.

"They were around the net. Those are really good confidence-builder goals for him and the team."

Halpern said he couldn't have done it without Lecavalier's pass on the first goal and Ryan Malone trying to jam the puck under goalie Chris Mason on the second.

"That's two tap-ins created by two very good plays and by very good players," Halpern said.

He also credited the training staff for fixing him up in Detroit and the equipment staff for fashioning his mask.

"He's going to have to keep the mask on after scoring two goals," Stamkos said.

"Back to my college days," Halpern laughed. "I was good in college."

He was very good Friday night.

Lightning 1 2 3 6
Blues 1 0 2 3

First Period1, St. Louis, Winchester 1 (Backes, Kariya), 10:04 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 7 (Tanguay, Lecavalier), 10:37. PenaltiesOhlund, TB (interference), 8:15; Halpern, TB (hooking), 12:36; Janssen, StL (delay of game), 18:32; Lecavalier, TB (elbowing), 18:57; Colaiacovo, StL (tripping), 19:53.

Second Period3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 19 (Foster, St. Louis), :36. 4, Tampa Bay, Foster 5 (Hedman, Malone), 6:24. PenaltiesLecavalier, TB (roughing), 2:17; Veilleux, TB (holding), 4:52; Johnson, StL (holding), 4:52; Janssen, StL (holding), 7:19; Jones, TB, major (fighting), 10:03; Colaiacovo, StL, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 10:03; St. Louis, TB (roughing), 13:45.

Third Period5, St. Louis, Oshie 7 (Kariya, Backes), 3:58. 6, Tampa Bay, Halpern 6 (Lecavalier, Tanguay), 4:12. 7, St. Louis, Tkachuk 7 (Boyes, McDonald), 9:03 (pp). 8, Tampa Bay, Halpern 7 (Malone), 11:15. 9, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 20 (St. Louis), 19:02 (en). PenaltiesTanguay, TB (tripping), 8:38. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 5-13-6—24. St. Louis 11-8-7—26. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 4; St. Louis 2 of 5. GoaliesTampa Bay, Niittymaki 7-5-4 (26 shots-23 saves). St. Louis, Mason 9-10-4 (23-18).

Lightning 6

Blues 3

Caged Halpern sparks Lightning 12/18/09 [Last modified: Saturday, December 19, 2009 12:28am]
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