TAMPA — So, do you like that Marty St. Louis as a player?
The question was supposed to be rhetorical. But Lightning coach Rick Tocchet, after a 6-4 victory over the Maple Leafs Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, took it seriously.
"That first period is as good as I've seen any player in the league play," he said of the right wing. "He willed the team to win that game."
St. Louis tied franchise records with four points and three assists in a first period in which he also scored his 20th goal, and the Lightning (19-25-11) scored four times in 4:13 for a 4-1 lead.
"Tonight," St. Louis said, "everything I touched, something good happened."
The Tampa Bay offense has waited for something good to happen for a while.
The team had just nine goals in its previous six games, in which it went 1-4-1. Its power play was on an 0-for-15 streak that included two five-on-threes in Tuesday's loss to the Thrashers in which it had one shot on goal.
So Tocchet jumbled the lines (Ryan Malone was with St. Louis and center Vinny Lecavalier) and decided not to give the power play unit strategy, relying, instead, on its talent and creativity.
The result: six goals, tying a season high; three power-play goals, including one five-on-three; and the second-fastest four-goal stretch in team history, behind the 3:02 on Oct. 28, 2002, against the Panthers.
Malone scored twice, and Mark Recchi got his 12th to round out a first period in which Vesa Toskala was pulled in favor of Curtis Joseph with 3:17 left after allowing four goals on 12 shots.
"They're an explosive team," Leafs wing Lee Stempniak said. "Their forwards are a pretty dynamic group, and if you give them too many opportunities, sort of let them swarm a bit, you can't do that."
The Lightning's Mike McKenna, though he made several good stops at key times, was inconsistent, allowing four goals on 25 shots, and Toronto closed to 4-3 in the second period.
But rookie Steven Stamkos got a huge goal, his seventh, 6:01 into the third, and Lecavalier's team-high 25th, on a wraparound with 6:32 left, made it 6-3.
The story, though, was St. Louis, who set a career best for points in a period.
"He's a guy, when things aren't going well, he lets guys know," Stamkos said. "He keeps guys accountable and keeps himself accountable. That's why he's such a respected player around the league."
"That's leadership stuff," Tocchet said. "That's captain stuff."
St. Louis helped create Tampa Bay's first goal with a drive to the net that Toskala stopped. The puck went to defenseman Lukas Krajicek, whose shot was deflected by Malone with 7:30 left.
Malone scored his 18th with 6:36 left off a pass from St. Louis, who stole the puck from Stempniak. St. Louis had the second assist on Recchi's five-on-three goal, and his power-play goal, which made it 4-1 with 3:17 left, came on a nifty backhander.
"He just showed why he's one of the best players in the league," Malone said.
"It's no secret the lack of offense the past few games cost us," St. Louis said. "You can point fingers at the top guys, including myself. … I take it personally."
And did something about it.
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—1, Toronto, Stempniak 9, 10:58. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 17 (Krajicek, St. Louis), 12:30. 3, Tampa Bay, Malone 18 (St. Louis, Smaby), 13:24. 4, Tampa Bay, Recchi 12 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 15:17 (pp). 5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 20 (Recchi, McKenna), 16:43 (pp). Penalties—White, Tor (interference), 14:01; Kubina, Tor (delay of game), 15:02.
Second Period—6, Toronto, Stempniak 10 (Kubina, Hagman), 11:32 (pp). 7, Toronto, Hagman 17 (Grabovski, Finger), 12:46. Penalties—Artyukhin, TB (kneeing), 2:13; Sifers, Tor, major (fighting), 5:58; Hall, TB, major (fighting), 5:58; Malik, TB (interference), 10:39; Mayers, Tor (interference), 13:39.
Third Period—8, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 7 (Prospal, Eminger), 6:01 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 25 (Melichar, Murphy), 13:28. 10, Toronto, Kulemin 9 (Mayers, Frogren), 17:47. Penalties—Frogren, Tor (tripping), 4:18. Shots on Goal—Toronto 9-6-10—25. Tampa Bay 14-8-9—31. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 3 of 4. Goalies—Toronto, Toskala (12 shots-8 saves), Joseph 1-6-1 (16:43 first, 19-17). Tampa Bay, McKenna 2-1-1 (25-21). A—16,526 (19,758).