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For now, at least, Mathieu Garon is Tampa Bay Lightning's No. 1 goalie

TAMPA — Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon didn't want to hear it.

He didn't want to hear how much he has meant to the team's season-best five-game winning streak or about an improved goals-against average and save percentage. He certainly didn't want to hear how he is giving the team more of a chance to win.

"When you win, it seems like all the credit goes to the goalie, and when you lose it's the opposite," Garon said. "It all depends on how the team is playing."

Maybe so, but there is no getting around how the goaltending has stepped up lately. Garon leads the way, winning his past four starts with a 2.22 GAA and .918 save percentage.

Dwayne Roloson also played well in his last start, a 33-save win over the Coyotes on Jan. 21.

But Garon got the call out of the All-Star break Tuesday against the Capitals, and tonight against the Jets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum he will make his fifth start in six games. For now, at least, Garon, 34, is No. 1.

"I know Roli is chomping at the bit and wants more, and I understand that," coach Guy Boucher said. "But right now Garon has given us solid consistency. We're kind of riding that."

As in the 4-3 overtime win over Washington. Garon made 26 saves, including bang-bang stops of Troy Brouwer and Brooks Laich to spark a rush that led to Steven Stamkos' winning goal.

"It's your job to make key saves at the right time," Garon said.

As for assisting on a winning goal, he said, "Well, you don't really think about it."

Think about this: During Tampa Bay's streak, Garon and Roloson have combined for a 2.38 GAA and .918 save percentage. Compare that to their combined 3.32 GAA for the season, the worst in the league entering Wednesday, and .890 save percentage, second-worst.

Nothing happens in a vacuum, though, and the team is playing much better in the defensive zone. Defensemen Pavel Kubina and Eric Brewer are a combined plus-14 during the streak.

Brewer, though, said it is time to credit the goalies, who for most of the season have taken the brunt of media and fan criticism: "It's been easy pickins' to take pot shots at our goalies, but … they haven't had a lot of help."

"Early in the year we had a lot of breakdowns," defenseman Bruno Gervais said. "It's tough when you get 25 shots but nine of them are Grade A chances. We're giving less opportunities, but they're stepping up big time when it happens. They're keeping us in every game and giving us a chance to believe."

For Garon, most important is that a team fighting for its playoff life builds on its success. "We're playing with a lot of confidence right now," he said.

The goalies, too.

"Very often when asked about their games, goalies give credit to everybody in front of them," Boucher said. "Let's give them credit. They've played well."

And that should be heard.

For now, at least, Mathieu Garon is Tampa Bay Lightning's No. 1 goalie 02/01/12 [Last modified: Wednesday, February 1, 2012 10:53pm]
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