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A win, with Holmqvist's help

Johan Holmqvist hasn't been around long enough to know how much the Lightning has struggled against Ottawa.

But the 28-year-old goaltender still has perfect timing, choosing Sunday for arguably the best performance of his brief NHL career.

For the third straight game, Tampa Bay erased an early deficit, this time scoring two even-strength goals within a span of 36 seconds to beat the Senators 3-1 at the St. Pete Times Forum.

But it was Holmqvist, 8-1 this month, who kept the Lightning in this one long enough for the goals to come.

Holmqvist was trailing less than four minutes into the game, but after that, he was remarkable against the streaking Senators.

"That's the key," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "That's how you win a lot of games in this league is with your goaltender. All teams that are where they want to be at the end, what's making them stand is goaltending."

It was the Lightning's first regular-season victory over the Senators since March 1, 2003, a span of eight games. During that time, the Lightning was outscored 32-15.

And it was the first meeting between the teams since Ottawa ended Tampa Bay's season in the Eastern Conference quarterfinals last spring four games to one.

With the win, the Lightning (13-10-1) is above .500 at home (7-6) for the first time this season.

The Senators (11-12-1) entered having won five of six.

"It was nice to come back and turn it around against a team that was pretty hot," said defenseman Filip Kuba, who scored the Lightning's first goal and assisted on Brad Richards' winner. "It's a good feeling, especially at home."

In the first two games of the Lightning's three-game homestand, Holmqvist, who began the season as a backup to veteran Marc Denis and had just four NHL games under his belt, has a save percentage of .938.

The Senators took the lead just 3:34 in when Jason Spezza took a pass from Dany Heatley at the right circle and beat Holmqvist high along his glove side with a shot that hit off the far post.

"I'm talking to myself the whole game anyway," Holmqvist said. "There was a lot of time left. I couldn't just stand there and think about what had happened."

Holmqvist didn't allow another goal, making two big saves, then staying sharp despite a span of 16:55 in which he did not face a shot.

Kuba scored the Lightning's first goal at 10:28 in the second. He then found a streaking Richards, who scored from the slot at 11:04 to put the Lightning up 2-1.

Holmqvist held off a flurry of shots in a third period that was mostly played in the Lightning's defensive zone. He finished with 22 saves.

"He was tremendous," Richards said of Holmqvist. "He did really well in the third period. It was a sloppy game for the most part, but then in the third (Ottawa) really turned it on, and he was solid."

"We came out hard in the third, and they played pretty well with the lead," Ottawa defenseman Wade Redden said. "We got a few chances, we were buzzing and skating, but we couldn't get one by him."

The Lightning added an insurance goal late on a power play when Marty St. Louis scored his team-high 15th while rebounding Paul Ranger's deflected shot from the point.


Lightning vs. Capitals

7:30 p.m. Tuesday, St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa

TV: Sun Sports