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Sunday, Sep 24, 2017
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St. Louis' hat trick leads Bolts past Panthers

TAMPA - Sitting at his locker following a three-goal performance, Marty St. Louis sat with his three sons on his knee while holding three pucks to pose for a postgame picture.

The snapshot served as a special reminder for St. Louis, who capped his 900th game Saturday with his fifth hat trick as Tampa Bay routed Florida 6-3 in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,204 at The Forum.

The six goals scored was a season-high for the Lightning, and the win pulled Tampa Bay to within eight points of the Southeast Division lead behind Florida.

Vinny Lecavalier had a season-high four points, with a goal and three assists, while Steven Stamkos notched his league-leading 34th goal of the season to help the Lightning improve to 6-0-1 in its past seven games and reach the .500 mark for the first time since Dec. 31.

For St. Louis, who carried 4-year-old son Mason out on the ice with him when he was announced as the No. 1 star, everything just fell into place on what turned out to be a memorable night in his illustrious career.

"Weird things happen in situations sometimes," St. Louis said. "Of all the games I could have done something like this, it came in my 900th game. It's fun, on a weekend night when my kids are here. It's pretty exciting. … I'll remember this.

"With the win, three goals, my kids being there, I think I have a lot of reasons to remember this game."

The hat trick was his first since Oct. 26, 2006, against Carolina and extended his scoring streak to nine games, the longest active streak in the league.

"It's only fitting,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "These people who deserve so much and give a lot, nights like this are important for them. It's important for our fans, it's important for our organization, and it couldn't have happened on a better night."

It also came on an important night for Tampa Bay, which received major contributions from its other stars as well, starting with Lecavalier, who last scored four points in a game on Feb. 23, 2011, when he had five points against Phoenix.

Stamkos added what turned out to be the winning goal, then passed on a chance to score into an empty net to allow St. Louis to cap his hat trick.

"Our three big cannons, along with (defenseman Victor) Hedman, they were just outstanding, all four of them," Boucher said.

Nate Thompson started things rolling, blocking a shot and converting on the breakaway just 1:37 into the game. Florida scored just over two minutes later to carry a 1-1 tie into the second period, but the Lightning broke the game open with a four-goal outburst to tie a season-high in goals in a period.

The Panthers cut the lead to 5-3 on a Sean Bergenheim breakaway with 45.1 seconds left in the second, but they got no closer as Tampa Bay blocked 22 shots and limited Florida to 20 shots on goal.

"We came out and played a solid game, played well as a team," Lecavalier said.

But it turned out to be St. Louis' night, and he has enjoyed plenty of them throughout his 12 years in a Lightning uniform.

"It's great. He really worked hard and really battled, so he deserved this," Lecavalier said. "He had a great game. It really helped us out, and it being his 900th game made it extra special for him."
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