Pat Jablonski came within 17 seconds of posting his first shutout in the NHL _ and against his former teammates, at that.
"I would have loved to have got it," Jablonski said. "I've never had one before. I had one when I was sent down to the minors, but never in the NHL."
St. Louis Blues center Craig Janney spoiled Jablonski's homecoming with a deflection of Jeff Brown's slap slot from the blue line to score the Blues only goal of the game.
But the score was too late for St. Louis. Rob DiMaio scored in the second period and Brian Bradley had an empty-net goal with 48 seconds left to propel the Tampa Bay Lightning past the Blues 2-1 on Tuesday night in front of 13,786 at St. Louis Arena.
Jablonski, coming off a 40-save performance in a 4-4 tie at Chicago on Sunday night, made 35 saves against St. Louis, including a breakaway by Brett Hull, the NHL's most potent goal scorer.
"I knew he could play like that," said the Blues' rookie coach, Bob Plager. "He had some good games for me in Peoria (the Blues' minor-league affiliate)."
Jablonski was drafted by the Blues in the 1985 entry draft. He backed up Blues goaltender Curtis Joseph last season, appearing in 10 games with a 3-6 record and 4.87 goals-against average.
The Lightning improved to 2-1-1 and moved atop the Norris Division, while St. Louis fell to 1-3.
"I don't think they can sneak up on anybody," Plager said.
"They all read the papers. They see they won the first game in Tampa. Maybe that was on emotion. But they go to Minnesota and lose a close one by one. Then they go to Chicago and come back to tie.
"They can't sneak up. And if they do, our players can't read. And we reminded them. So maybe they didn't listen."
But the Lightning's performance did not draw rave reviews from either coach Terry Crisp or general manager Phil Esposito.
"I never thought I would say I was unhappy after a win this season," Esposito said. "The defense has to do a better job."
"Most of the front line were passengers tonight, and we can't afford to have any passengers," Crisp said. "We're happy Jabber (Jablonski) kept us in there."
St. Louis had not scored in six periods at home until Janney's deflection.
Jablonski said he never saw the shot.
"I heard it bounce off a few people, and then it hit me in the back after it bounced off the back of the net," he said.
After a third-period flurry at 9:51, a play was reviewed to see if the Blues' Philippe Bozon had managed to put the puck past Jablonski.
Jablonski made the initial save and then was pushed onto the ground. With a lot of bodies clogging the front of the net, referee Ron Hoggarth could not determine whether the puck had crossed the goal line.
After a review of the TV replay, the call was no goal.
"I think it was under me," Jablonski said.
The Lightning scored the first goal of the game 1:51 into the second period off a nice effort by John Tucker.
Tucker had the puck on the right wing and was checked into the boards by St. Louis defenseman Rick Zombo. Tucker bounced back up and fed the puck to Rob Zamuner.
Zamuner then made a short pass to DiMaio, who beat Joseph high to the left corner of the net, drawing the boos of the St. Louis crowd. DiMaio had suffered a slight concussion in a fight with Stu Grimson on Sunday night.
The official scorer did not give Zamuner an assist on the goal, much to the ire of Esposito.
It was DiMaio's first goal of the season
The Blues were 0-for-3 on power plays Tuesday night.