TAMPA — Lightning players did not formally dedicate Tuesday night's game with the Ducks to Steve Downie.
Instead, players honored their popular former teammate with an effort of which they knew he would be proud.
"We wanted to come out hard and fight like Downs has done here for four years," wing Marty St. Louis said. "We did that early on and we stayed with it."
The result, just hours after the scrappy right wing was traded to the Avalanche, was a 3-2 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum over one of the hottest teams in the league.
"Downs was a warrior for this team," St. Louis said. "He's going to be missed. He's a heck of a hockey player and always played with a lot of heart. … Unfortunately he's not going to be here any more."
For the third straight game day Tampa Bay's players dealt with the emotions of a front-line player being traded as general manager Steve Yzerman, eyes on the future, stockpiles draft choices and prospects.
Add the absence of captain Vinny Lecavalier, out indefinitely with a fractured right hand, and the team's three-game winning streak — which moved Tampa Bay (27-26-6) to five points from the last playoff spot in the East and five points from first-place Florida in the Southeast Division — is even more impressive.
"I have the utmost respect for what these guys have done," coach Guy Boucher said.
Steven Stamkos, with a league-best 42 goals, scored twice in the first period, including on the power play 28 seconds into the game, and had an assist. Teddy Purcell also had three points and the winner with a sweet backhand that made the score 3-1 2:40 into the second period.
And goaltender Mathieu Garon made 28 saves as Anaheim (on a 15-3-4 run) had a 30-16 shot advantage, including 11-3 in the third when the Ducks pushed the depleted and fatigued Lightning.
It is not going to get easier on a three-game road trip that begins Thursday in Winnipeg and goes to Pittsburgh and New Jersey.
Tuesday, though, the focus was on one game; actually, one player. Boucher said he delayed pregame meetings so Downie, who had 47 goals, 112 points and 554 penalty minutes in 214 games for Tampa Bay, could say goodbye to his former teammates.
Boucher said he stayed out of the way "so players were able to pay respects to the man, their friend and the player that was here, and everything that he has given us."
"Downie had some real buddies in here," Boucher added, "some best friends in here."
Downie ducked out without commenting. But Purcell said, "The message was just because there are some guys leaving we're not giving up in here. We're going to keep fighting and claw our way back."
Downie couldn't have said it better.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 41 (Malone, Purcell), :28 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 42 (B.Clark, Purcell), 17:58. Penalties—Fowler, Ana (hooking), :22.
Second Period—3, Anaheim, Koivu 11 (Ryan, Fowler), :40. 4, Tampa Bay, Purcell 15 (Stamkos, Gilroy), 2:40. 5, Anaheim, Ryan 22 (Koivu), 18:38. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (hooking), 5:37; Selanne, Ana (hooking), 6:17.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Connolly, TB (delay of game), 4:57. Shots on Goal—Anaheim 8-11-11—30. Tampa Bay 7-6-3—16. Power-play opportunities—Anaheim 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 1 of 2. Goalies—Anaheim, Hiller 22-20-10 (16 shots-13 saves). Tampa Bay, Garon 19-15-4 (30-28). A—18,309 (19,204). T—2:19. Referees—Justin St. Pierre, Brad Watson. Linesmen—Thor Nelson, Pierre Racicot.