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Tampa Bay Lightning beats Phoenix Coyotes behind Mike Smith's sharp return in goal

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Lightning goaltender Mike Smith lunged to his left, glove raised, and the puck hit squarely in the pocket.

From the way it looked, Smith had Radim Vrbata's shot all the way.

"You know, there's some luck involved when you play this position," Smith said. "It was nice for it to finally go my way."

It did in Monday night's 4-1 victory over the Coyotes at Arena.

In his first start since Nov. 2, Smith looked like his old self with 30 saves as Tampa Bay (8-4-6) was outshot 31-19; his best coming when the game was still in doubt.

There were two saves on Scottie Upshall at the tail end of a two-on-one to protect a 1-0 first-period lead. And there was the dazzler on Vrbata, which preserved a 3-1 second-period edge.

"Smitty," captain Vinny Lecavalier said, "really kept us in the game."

Lecavalier did his part as well with two goals and three points, his tallies doubling his season output. Alex Tanguay had a goal and three points, and Marty St. Louis scored from his back off a Lecavalier rebound for his fourth of the season and first goal in 13 games.

It was only the second game this season in which neither Steven Stamkos nor Ryan Malone scored; the pair entered the game with 25 of the team's 43 goals.

The win upped the Lightning's road streak to 3-0-1 and at 6-1-4 gave it points in 10 of its past 11 games.

But the big story was Smith, who relinquished his No. 1 tag after going 0-3-1 on the road with a 5.38 goals-against average and an .826 save percentage.

Antero Niittymaki started the past five games (3-0-2). But coach Rick Tocchet said it was time to get Smith back in action to help keep him fresh and to give Niittymaki's surgically repaired hips a precautionary break.

"I was really focused in practice," said Smith, who had not played since allowing five goals on 18 shots in a 6-2 loss to the Flyers. "In the past I've been more loose in practice and maybe not focused on every puck. The last couple of weeks have been a battle for me in practice to just get everything out of it that I can."

In that sense, the win was personally satisfying.

"That's a good team over there we just beat,'' Smith said. "We should be proud of ourselves."

Smith should be proud, too, Tocchet said:

"His temperament before the game, there was a good calmness to him. He wasn't uneasy. It was a nice effort. It's tough sitting on the bench for that long."

But worth the wait.

Lightning 2 1 1 4
at Coyotes 1 0 0 1

First Period1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 3 (Malone, Krajicek), 5:59. 2, Tampa Bay, Tanguay 4 (Malone, Stamkos), 14:44 (pp). 3, Phoenix, Aucoin 3 (Lepisto, Upshall), 19:20 (pp). PenaltiesFiddler, Pho (roughing), 7:19; Bissonnette, Pho (roughing), 13:36; Vandermeer, Pho (delay of game), 14:11; Vandermeer, Pho, major-game misconduct (boarding), 16:25; Malone, TB (interference), 17:43.

Second Period4, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 4 (Lecavalier, Tanguay), 4:30. PenaltiesFoster, TB (hooking), 6:17; Lepisto, Pho (hooking), 9:16; Veilleux, TB (delay of game), 18:06.

Third Period5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 4 (Tanguay), 11:46. PenaltiesWalker, TB, major (fighting), 3:15; Bissonnette, Pho, major (fighting), 3:15. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 8-3-8—19. Phoenix 11-13-7—31. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 1 of 5; Phoenix 1 of 3. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 3-3-3 (31 shots-30 saves). Phoenix, LaBarbera 1-3-0 (19-15). A9,503 (17,125). T2:18.

Lightning 4

Coyotes 1

Tampa Bay Lightning beats Phoenix Coyotes behind Mike Smith's sharp return in goal 11/16/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 17, 2009 8:02am]
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