NEWARK, N.J. — Coach Guy Boucher was so happy with the nickname he gave Marty St. Louis, he made sure the player heard him use it.
"There's the 'little giant,' " he called out as the Lightning wing walked by in the Prudential Center.
St. Louis made a good-humored nod before opening the door to a meet-and-greet area where he was enveloped by cheers and picture flashes.
It was a well-earned attaboy for the 5-foot-7 player, who Sunday had a hat trick and four points in a 4-3 win over the Devils that took some of the edge off a disappointing 1-2-0 road trip.
"He's been an incredible leader," Boucher said. "When you realize what he's done, what he keeps doing, it has to inspire."
The Lightning (28-28-6) needed someone to provide some equilibrium. Saturday's 8-1 loss in Pittsburgh was bad enough. But a roster depleted by trades and injuries was slapped again by the loss of defenseman Victor Hedman to a possible concussion. That's bad news for a team 11th in the Eastern Conference, six points out of the eighth and final playoff spot. But with 11 of its next 16 games at home, where the Lightning is 18-9-2, and the power play suddenly clicking with five goals in 16 chances, players believe they have a chance.
"You want to fight until the end," St. Louis said. "We talked about it before the game. 'Let's just make sure we keep hanging around, and you never know what happens.' We go back home and give ourselves a chance. We did that by getting two points."
St. Louis' third goal, his 22nd of the season, was the winner; it made the score 4-2 with 9:42 left in the third period.
Tampa Bay also got a huge goal from Matt Gilroy, whose tap-in 3:09 into the third made it 3-2 41 seconds after Petr Sykora tied it.
Teddy Purcell, with four goals and 11 points in a six-game points streak, had three assists. Steven Stamkos had two points, and Mathieu Garon made 19 saves. New Jersey had a 22-16 shot advantage. That's right, Tampa Bay scored on four of 16 shots against future Hall of Famer Marty Brodeur.
Garon even got an assist. His pass to Stamkos past the red line helped set up St. Louis' first goal.
"A great play," St. Louis said, "a heads-up play."
There was a blip when the Lightning had to survive St. Louis' tripping penalty with 59 seconds left.
Still, "he's such a great leader for us," Garon said of the Laval, Quebec, native who has two hat tricks this season and six in his career. "Every time he's got the puck, he's dangerous. That's why he's one of the top players."
"He is," Boucher said, "the little giant."
First Period—1, N.J., Ponikarovsky 12, 12:07. Penalties—Zidlicky, NJ (holding), 13:04.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 20 (Stamkos, Garon), 6:39. 3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 21 (Purcell, Stamkos), 14:55 (pp). Penalties—Zubrus, NJ (holding stick), 8:17; Kovalchuk, NJ (tripping), 13:46; Smith, TB (hooking), 15:47; Stamkos, TB (hooking), 20:00.
Third Period—4, N.J., Sykora 15 (Bernier, Zubrus), 2:28. 5, Tampa Bay, Gilroy 2 (St. Louis, Purcell), 3:09. 6, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 22 (Purcell, Brewer), 10:18. 7, N.J., Parise 23 (Kovalchuk, Elias), 17:25 (pp). Penalties—Stamkos, TB (tripping), 15:36; St. Louis, TB (tripping), 19:00. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-6-4—16. N.J. 8-6-8—22. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 3; N.J. 1 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Garon 20-16-4 (22 shots-19 saves). N.J., Brodeur 22-15-2 (16-12).