TAMPA — A lot of elements went into the Lightning's 4-1 victory over the Flyers on Thursday night at the St. Pete Times Forum.
There was a sturdy forecheck that made it difficult for Philadelphia to gain the Tampa Bay zone. A good backcheck that created a five-man defensive unit that protected a banged-up blue line.
There were three goals in 2:03 of the second period, by Marty St. Louis, Andrej Meszaros and Ryan Craig, and 44 shots on goal.
But there was something else, too, some players said: a sense of protecting their own as speculation continued to swirl that captain Vinny Lecavalier could be traded.
"We're all teammates here," Craig said. "We don't want to see anyone from our group go, especially our leader and captain."
Said goaltender Mike Smith: "To even think about trading a guy like that, I don't know."
What can players do?
"Winning," Craig said, "solves a lot of problems."
Tampa Bay (14-20-10) is doing more of that lately and has built a nice little 7-4-1 streak. But its domination of the Flyers, a tough road team, was one of its best efforts of the season, and more notable because it came one day after returning from a five-game, 10-day road trip and two days after a 7-1 drubbing by the Sharks.
"They're a pretty good hockey team with a lot of pride," Philadelphia coach John Stevens said. "They're getting better all the time. They had a lot of desperation in their game tonight."
They had St. Louis leading the way with eight shots. Lecavalier, who scored his team-high 18th goal on a third-period penalty shot, had six and helped make sure Jeff Carter, with a league-best 29 goals, did not score.
Add center Jeff Halpern, good defensively on Flyers captain Mike Richards, and grinders such as Craig, Adam Hall and Matt Pettinger fueling the forecheck, and you have one of those team efforts you hear so much about.
"One through 21 or 22 who played, contributed," coach Rick Tocchet said.
Key was the outburst that erased a 1-0 Flyers lead and was the fourth-fastest three goals in Lightning history.
St. Louis started it with 5:12 left in the second with his 17th goal off a pass from Steven Stamkos, who has a goal and three points in three games since being benched Friday against the Ducks.
Twenty-five seconds later, Meszaros, on the power play, sneaked in from the blue line and scored off a perfect pass from Ryan Malone. Craig's goal with 3:09 left came off a rebound.
"We're really buying into the system," said Smith, who had 31 saves for his third win in four starts. "Toc is really getting through to the guys to get to the net. Half our shots must have come from around the crease. Guys were going to the net with a purpose. When we do that, we're tough to play against."
When they do that, they let themselves believe that with 11 of their next 14 at home, they can make a playoff run without breaking up the core group.
"When you love guys and you play with them, when you win, people stay together," Tocchet said. "That's a good rallying cry, whatever it takes to get guys playing the same way."
"The guys have been great," Lecavalier said. "We've been talking, and they're really supporting me. All the guys, I can say all the names. It's important in times like this."
First Period—None. Penalties—Hartnell, Phi (unsportsmanlike conduct), :12; Downie, TB (roughing), :12; Upshall, Phi (interference), 8:03; Stamkos, TB (interference), 9:53; Philadelphia bench, served by Lupul (too many men), 16:41.
Second Period—1, Philadelphia, Lupul 15 (Carter, Carle), 5:21 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 17 (Stamkos, Recchi), 14:48. 3, Tampa Bay, Meszaros 2 (Malone, Recchi), 15:13 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Craig 2 (Pettinger, Hall), 16:51. Penalties—Artyukhin, TB (tripping), 2:06; Recchi, TB (interference), 5:06; Carter, Phi (slashing), 9:13; Cote, Phi, 11:58; Koci, TB, 11:58; R.Jones, Phi (tripping), 15:05.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 18 (penalty shot), 12:34. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Philadelphia 7-13-12—32. Tampa Bay 14-18-12—44. Power-play opportunities—Philadelphia 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Philadelphia, Biron 15-9-5 (44 shots-40 saves). Tampa Bay, Smith 11-15-9 (32-31). A—15,604 (19,758).