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Lightning overcomes Oilers and tiring travel

Give the Lightning credit lots of it.

Playing its third game in four nights and second in two after a 3,200-mile plane ride from Tampa to Vancouver, the Lightning earned a satisfying 3-2 victory over the Oilers Thursday at Rexall Place.

"They played hard," coach John Tortorella. "I don't think they got caught up in any of the travel situation. They just got their rest and played hard."

"We're certainly a very determined team," center Vinny Lecavalier said. "We played back-to-back, and it's tough. But we're on a mission to get a division title and accomplish our goals."

The Lightning has three points in the first two games of its four-game road trip, including Wednesday's overtime loss to the Canucks. Its 53 points, the most in franchise history after 47 games, are four ahead of the second-place Thrashers in the Southeast with two games in hand.

Lecavalier had a goal and an assist, his first multipoint game since Nov. 8, and center Brad Richards scored the winner as part of a two-goal second period that broke a tie at 1.

Defenseman Pavel Kubina scored a huge goal to tie the score after Brad Isbister put Edmonton ahead 29 seconds into the first period on the game's first shot. And John Grahame made 26 saves, including 14 in the third period when the Oilers pressed a Tampa Bay team certainly feeling the effects of its grueling schedule.

Radek Dvorak cut the deficit to one with 9:49 left. But Grahame played with confidence and the Lightning helped by solidifying the slot to force the Oilers to shoot from outside or the point.

"It's no excuse but we're in a little bit of a grind with the travel," Grahame said. "We just tried to stay mentally strong and do the little things. The guys really showed their character."

It showed on Kubina's goal when he stickhandled through the slot and backhanded the puck past goalie Tommy Salo at 4:08 of the first period.

It showed on Lecavalier's goal when he picked up a puck in the slot, made a great move to avoid Oilers defenseman Alex Semenov and scored his 14th goal on a backhander.

And it showed on Richards' goal as the Lightning took advantage of a delayed penalty on Georges Laraque for punching Martin Cibak in the back of the head. Richards came on as the extra skater and scored off a pass from Edmonton native Chris Dingman with 2:34 left in the second.

And how about Grahame, who has given up just nine goals while getting five wins in his past seven starts?

While it will never be shown on any highlight show, his three-save effort in a 22-second span of the second period to preserve a 2-1 lead was just as important as anything he did in the third.

So what if Edmonton, with a 28-22 shot advantage, was the first team to outshoot the Lightning in 18 games. And so what if the Oilers ravaged Tampa Bay on faceoffs, winning 63 percent.

"It was one of those games," Richards said. "It got a little ugly at the end. Timely scoring and battling at the end and Johnny comes up big. It's one of those games that brings teams together."

It was one of those games where credit was due.

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