TAMPA, Fla. (AP) Martin St. Louis made sure Dan Ellis’ stellar relief performance wasn’t wasted.
St. Louis scored the tiebreaking goal early in the third and added a late empty-netter, Ellis stopped all 24 shot he faced and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 5-3 on Wednesday night.
Ellis took over after Tampa Bay starter Mike Smith was pulled at 12:15 of the first period after allowing three goals on seven shots
“You throw him in there and he gives you a chance to get back in it,” St. Louis said. “That’s great.”
The speedy St. Louis blew past Penguins defenseman Ben Lovejoy and lifted a shot over goalie Marc-Andre Fleury to put Tampa Bay up 4-3 with 13:20 to play, then made it a two-goal game with Fleury on the bench for an extra skater with 30.8 seconds remaining.
“I think our team really turned it around,” Ellis said.
Dana Tyrell, Teddy Purcell and Vincent Lecavalier also scored for the Lightning. Tampa Bay, which has missed the playoffs the past three seasons, improved to 6-2-1 under new coach Guy Boucher.
“I think we know what we have character-wise,” St. Louis said. “We never feel like we’re out if it.”
Pittsburgh got goals from Craig Adams, Matt Cooke and Pascal Dupuis. The Penguins have lost two in a row, including a 1-0 overtime loss at St. Louis on Saturday night, after a four-game winning streak.
“There’s not much to say … we got beat,” Penguins captain Sidney Crosby said. “Gave up too many opportunities and didn’t execute on the one’s we got. We didn’t deserve that one, definitely.”
Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos, who shared the NHL goal-scoring title (51) last season with Crosby, had three assists. Crosby, held to two goals in his last 12 games against the Lightning, had an assist.
After Tyrell scored his first NHL goal at 2:51 of the first, Pittsburgh scored the next three goals, including two while short-handed by Adams (3:28) and Cooke (4:29). Adams, who assisted on the Pittsburgh’s other two first-period goals, stopped a personal 118-game goal drought, dating to Dec. 16, 2008, against Edmonton.
Dupuis made it 3-1 at 12:15 of the first, with the goal coming 11 seconds after Pittsburgh killed off a short-handed situation. Purcell got Tampa Bay to 3-2 with 3:20 left in the first.
The Lightning tied it 3 on Lecavalier’s goal during a 5-on-3 power play at 8:43 of the second. Tampa Bay had several short-handed chances later in the period, including Nate Thompson hitting the crossbar on a breakaway and Fleury stopping Sean Bergenheim on a penalty shot.
“We didn’t like our focus and staying on the plan,” Pittsburgh coach Dan Bylsma said.
The teams combined for just 14 goals – seven by both – in four games last season.
NOTES: Chicago Blackhawks senior adviser Scotty Bowman, wearing his new 2010 Stanley Cup championship ring, scouted the game. Bowman won one of his nine Stanley Cups as a coach with the Penguins in 1992. … Pittsburgh RW Arron Asham (left shoulder) and Tampa Bay D Mattias Ohlund (right knee) both played in their first game of the season. … The Lightning were without LW Simon Gagne (stiff neck), C Dominic Moore (groin) and D Matt Smaby (illness). … Peguins RW Eric Godard was ill and didn’t play.