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Tampa Bay Lightning beats Minnesota Wild 3-1

ST. PAUL, Minn. — For Lightning coach Guy Boucher, the telling moments in Saturday's game with the Wild were when he heard players on the bench demanding accountability from each other.

"That's maturity," Boucher said. "When it's the players who enforce what you're telling them, it means guys are buying in."

The 3-1 victory at Xcel Energy Center was the team's fourth straight. But just as noteworthy, Tampa Bay (43-24-11) avoided a letdown after Thursday's playoff-clinching win over the Penguins.

"We played a great game," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "Everybody was on the same page. Everyone was doing the right things."

Gritty second-period goals by Ryan Malone and Steve Downie overcame a first-period deficit. Sean Bergenheim's third-period goal, his first in 12 games that ended a two-on-one with Marty St. Louis, gave breathing room.

And goaltender Dwayne Roloson again was strong with 29 saves. Minnesota had a 30-23 shot advantage, 11-4 in the third period.

But unlike Thursday, when turnovers and penalties led to a swing in momentum, Tampa Bay was composed in the face of building pressure from a desperate Wild team that was eliminated from playoff contention.

Better game management while maintaining energy and focus was the pregame lesson coaches delivered with video and stern words.

Asked before the game if his players would exhale after clinching the playoffs, Boucher said, "They won't feel like exhaling because they'll have my inhaling pretty quickly down their throat."

Such tactics were unnecessary.

Roloson's save on Brent Burns began a sequence that led to Malone's tying goal 5:09 into the second period. Malone charged the net, took a pass from Dominic Moore and scored as he was clobbered, and had the wind knocked out of him, by Minnesota's Justin Falk.

"My goodness, that's a big save," Boucher said, "a big turnaround."

Downie showed quick hands handling Simon Gagne's hot cross-slot pass before scoring from in close at 9:05 for a 2-1 lead. But the most telling statistic was Tampa Bay had just one giveaway.

"It's huge," Roloson said. "We did the little things to win, especially at the end of the game to get pucks out. We played a great defensive game."

Tampa Bay remained three points behind the Penguins, its expected first-round playoff opponent, in the race for a top-four seed and home-ice advantage in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh beat the Panthers later in the day.

"We got guys to buy into the championship habits we talked about," Boucher said.

"And," he added, "I didn't even have to talk on the bench."

Lightning 0 2 1 3
Wild 1 0 0 1

First Period1, Minnesota, Bouchard 11 (Brodziak, Clutterbuck), 17:03. PenaltiesKubina, TB (holding), 5:54; Miettinen, Min (tripping), 13:18.

Second Period2, Tampa Bay, Malone 12 (Moore, Lundin), 5:09. 3, Tampa Bay, Downie 10 (Gagne, Brewer), 9:05. PenaltiesDownie, TB (interference), :54; Miettinen, Min (holding), 11:06; Zanon, Min (hooking), 16:06; Hedman, TB (hooking), 18:06; Cullen, Min (interference), 19:20.

Third Period4, Tampa Bay, Bergenheim 14 (St. Louis), 7:58. PenaltiesOhlund, TB (roughing), 12:02. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 8-11-4—23. Minnesota 9-10-11—30. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 0 of 4; Minnesota 0 of 4. GoaliesTampa Bay, Roloson 23-24-5 (30 shots-29 saves). Minnesota, Backstrom 22-22-5 (23-20).

Lightning 3

Wild 1

Tampa Bay Lightning beats Minnesota Wild 3-1 04/02/11 [Last modified: Saturday, April 2, 2011 10:40pm]

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