TAMPA — One lousy second.
Had Lightning wing Marty St. Louis waited one more second, the shot he ripped into the top right corner of the net might not have counted, and who knows how Monday night's game with the Hurricanes might have gone?
As it turned out, St. Louis' goal with one second left in the first period was the key to Tampa Bay's 5-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Yes, the Lightning's three goals in 4 minutes, 7 seconds of a second period in which it held an 18-2 shot advantage put Carolina away. But the groundwork was laid when St. Louis put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1.
"That was huge," teammate Steven Stamkos said. "It's all about momentum in a game. They always say don't let the other team score with less than a minute left. It takes the wind right out of you.
"So, we came out on a high, and they came out on a low, and we showed that in the second period."
It was the fourth straight win for the Lightning (19-10-4), which swept a three-game homestand, and with 42 points, best in team history after 33 games, is one point behind the first-place Thrashers in the Southeast.
Stamkos scored his team-best 26th goal and 100th of his career to become the sixth NHL player to reach the mark before turning 21. Brett Clark and Sean Bergenheim also scored in the second period for a 5-1 lead with 1:02 left.
Dominic Moore scored in the first, and goaltender Dan Ellis made 21 saves, stepping in for Mike Smith, who was scheduled to start but during the morning skate sustained a left-knee injury that will keep him out two to three weeks.
But it was St. Louis who led the way with his second straight three-point game and his 51st winning goal, a franchise best.
"I was shooting to score," St. Louis said. "There are times you can't, but on that play, I tried to put it where I saw."
The play began with Ryan Malone dislodging the puck from Carolina's Patrick Dwyer in the offensive zone. St. Louis picked it up, swung left and fired for the top right corner past goalie Justin Peters.
"It's not like a wide shot is going to kill me there," St. Louis said. "It's not like they're going to get a two-on-one or three-on-one because of it."
St. Louis hit his target for his 13th goal.
"A perfect shot under the crossbar," Ellis said. "That was huge for taking the momentum from the other team."
Asked for more superlatives about St. Louis, who has five goals, 14 points in his past nine games, coach Guy Boucher said, "My English is not that good," but added:
"Everyone knows he's a heart and soul guy. For me, everything starts with attitude, then it's work ethic and then discipline. He's got all three. Everybody gets energy from his attitude. It's contagious."
Check out the second period.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Moore 6 (Purcell, Tyrell), 5:48. 2, Carolina, Samsonov 6 (Skinner, Cole), 15:52 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 13 (Malone, Moore), 19:59. Penalties—Jokinen, Car (roughing), 1:16; Hedman, TB (roughing), 1:16; Clark, TB (tripping), 2:26; Kubina, TB (roughing), 14:15.
Second Period—4, Tampa Bay, Clark 7 (St. Louis, Hedman), 14:51. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 26 (St. Louis, Purcell), 16:26 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Bergenheim 7 (Clark, Lecavalier), 18:58 (pp). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (tripping), 12:08; Skinner, Car (interference), 15:12; Carter, Car (interference), 17:49.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Bodie, Car, major (fighting), 6:00; Smaby, TB, major (fighting), 6:00; Moore, TB (delay of game), 7:56; Corvo, Car (slashing), 16:22; Moore, TB (holding), 19:28. Missed Penalty Shot—Bergenheim, TB, 14:50 third. Shots on Goal—Carolina 11-2-9—22. Tampa Bay 11-18-5—34. Power-play opportunities—Carolina 1 of 5; Tampa Bay 2 of 3. Goalies—Carolina, Peters 1-4-1 (34 shots-29 saves). Tampa Bay, Ellis 9-5-4 (22-21). A—17,210 (19,758). T—2:20.