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Lightning, Smith shut out Rangers

TAMPA — It was the kind of box score that does a general manager's heart good. And helps a rebuilding process seem plausible.

Every player acquired by the Lightning during its trade deadline machinations two weeks ago made contributions Saturday in a 3-0 victory against the Rangers at the St. Pete Times Forum.

GM Jay Feaster didn't take any credit during the brisk walk from the press box elevator to the lockers, where he had a long meeting with coach John Tortorella. But he shook a lot of hands vigorously, smiling all the while.

• Mike Smith, the centerpiece of a deal that sent one-time cornerstone Brad Richards to the Stars, made 20 saves, just missed scoring his first NHL goal and got his first assist.

• Jeff Halpern, the throw-in, recorded his 11th point in 10 games with an assist.

• Jussi Jokinen, the third player to come over from Dallas, had an assist.

• Alex Picard, a minor-league defenseman the Flyers packaged for 29-goal scorer Vinny Prospal, notched his second goal of the season, both with the Lightning, and made the biggest save of the game, on Jaromir Jagr with 6:18 left and the Lightning up 2-0.

Picard couldn't decide which play he liked better.

"The two don't happen that often," he said. "So I don't really know."

Smith clearly liked the save better, promising — and in the locker room delivering — a kiss to his defenseman.

And in yet another sign of growth, there was no third-period flop.

"There was some good stuff there," Tortorella said.

The Lightning has won three in a row for the first time since January and for the second straight game stung a team jostling for playoff position. The Rangers, meanwhile, have gone two straight games without a point for the first time since Feb. 5 and 7.

Smith, who beat the Bruins 3-1 on Thursday, had another strong yet high-wire performance. There was the third-period pass up the middle from aside the goal as a Ranger rushed him and the somewhat leisurely capture of a puck that wobbled menacingly toward his goal line. Oh, and an attempted clear that one of the most prolific snipers in the game stole and snapped toward an empty net soon filled by Picard's sternum. But there also were sprawling saves and, more important, routine ones.

"I got caught out of the net a few times there, and you can't do that," Smith said. "I get away with it all the time, but & tonight, I guess it was meant to be."

Picard capped a second period of domination — New York went 14:27 between shots from late in the first until the second — and made it 1-0 with 47 seconds left when he tapped in a rebound.

Marty St. Louis made it 2-0 with 13:20 left by tapping in a Jokinen pass. Michel Ouellet, who has bloomed since being paired with Halpern, scored in the last minute after Smith's ice-length fling toward an empty net went wide.

"I kind of regret it. Now every time there's an empty net, it's in the back of your mind," said Smith, whose scored in a 2002 minor-league game. "First thing's first. You've got to stop the puck, and maybe after that you get a chance. The win is most important."

And in the bigger picture, pro­gress.

Lightning 0 1 2 3
Rangers 0 0 0 0
Lightning 0 1 2 3
Rangers 0 0 0 0

First PeriodNone. PenaltiesHalpern, TB (high-sticking), 3:05; Sjostrom, NYR (interference), 15:47.

Second Period1, Tampa Bay, Picard 2 (Halpern, Darche), 19:13. PenaltiesBackman, NYR (interference), 11:11; Boyle, TB (hooking), 17:21; Rozsival, NYR (interference), 18:39.

Third Period2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 23 (Jokinen, Boyle), 6:40 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Ouellet 15 (Smith), 19:02 (en). PenaltiesAvery, NYR (goalie interference), 5:04; Lecavalier, TB (holding stick), 12:24; N.Y. Rangers bench, served by Sjostrom (too many men), 14:46. Shots on GoalN.Y. Rangers 7-4-9—20. Tampa Bay 5-16-9—30. Power-play opportunitiesN.Y. Rangers 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 5. GoaliesN.Y. Rangers, Lundqvist 32-23-7 (29 shots-27 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 15-14-0 (20-20). A20,926 (19,758).

Lightning 3

Rangers 0

>>Fast Facts

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vs. Sabres, 7 p.m. Wednesday, HSBC Arena, Buffalo TV/radio: Sun Sports;

Lightning, Smith shut out Rangers 03/15/08 [Last modified: Monday, March 17, 2008 2:27pm]
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