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Tuesday, Oct 17, 2017
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Tampa Bay Lightning

Stamkos, Garon lead Bolts past Columbus

COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Lightning finally found some closing ability.

After seeing early leads erased in recent weeks, Tampa Bay played well with the lead in defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-2 in front of an announced crowd of 16,108 on Saturday night at Nationwide Arena.

Steven Stamkos scored his league-leading 20th goal and added an assist to lead the offense. Blair Jones and defenseman Eric Brewer also scored, while former Columbus goaltender Mathieu Garon stopped 26 shots to pick up the victory in his first game against his former team.

The victory marked the first time Tampa Bay has won back-to-back games since a home-and-home sweep of the Florida Panthers Nov. 25 and 26. It was also just the eighth time in 15 tries the Lightning won after opening the scoring.

Coming off a game on Thursday in which a two-goal lead in the third period was erased by Calgary, Tampa Bay held on to a one-goal lead this time.

"We even told the players that we have been in this situation so many times in the past 12 games where it just slipped away," Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. "And I've said before, the last 12 games we have been playing very, very well, been focusing on the process and focusing on things that are going to help us build rather than destroy, and our attitude is coming up big."

In some of those recent games, the third period was shaky for the Lightning. Not only did Calgary rally for two goals on Thursday before Tampa Bay won in overtime, the Lightning lost games in the third against the New York Rangers, Ottawa Senators and Detroit Red Wings.

Closing out Saturday's game, albeit against the league's 30th-ranked team, could be a building block to regaining confidence for a team that has looked rattled in recent outings.

"We are happy with the win, that's first and foremost, because a couple of wins is a big thing for us," Brewer said. "We are just slowly trying to pick away at this, and we feel that we have played better and I think the results are showing that. There are certainly some things we can shore up, but winning games in different types of situations is a good thing for us."

Jones got the Lightning on the board, taking a feed from Teddy Purcell and charging the net for his second goal in the past three games at 7:27 of the first period. Brewer made it 2-0, firing a slap shot to the far post with 1:48 left in the period.

The goal was the first for Brewer since March 3 and marked the first time the Lightning held a two-goal lead on the road since opening night at Carolina on Oct. 7.

Columbus cut the lead to one on a wrap-around power-play goal by R.J. Umberger, but a nifty pass in traffic from Vinny Lecavalier to Stamkos at 10:05 of the second regained the two-goal lead.

Though Rick Nash scored on another wraparound at 12:14, the Bolts held on for the win after a scoreless third period.

"Things are obviously going a little better right now, and we gained some confidence from that last game (against Calgary) and we didn't give up that one-goal lead in the third," said Stamkos, who scored his second consecutive winning goal and pulled to within two points of the league lead in scoring.

"We were able to get back to the structure we know we need to have. When we had a lead in the third period, it was almost automatic for us last year and that's what we have to get back to."

eerlendsson@tampatrib.com (813) 259-7835

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