Final - OT
  for this game

Denis, Lecavalier lift Lightning to shootout victory

Oct 6, 2006 - 2:19 AM ATLANTA (Ticker) -- Marc Denis and the Tampa Bay Lightning enjoyed a thunderous start to the season.

Denis stopped all three attempts he faced in the shootout and Vincent Lecavalier scored the lone goal of the bonus format as the Lightning recorded a 3-2 triumph over the Atlanta Thrashers in the season opener for both teams.

Playing his first game with Tampa Bay since coming over in an offseason trade with Columbus, Denis needed to make only nine saves through overtime. But in the shootout, he denied Vyacheslav Kozlov, Jon Sim and Ilya Kovalchuk in succession to seal the Lightning's fourth straight victory in a season opener.

"I'm glad (my first game) is under my belt," said Denis, who almost did not start as team officials scrambled to get his work permit in order prior to the game. "I'm glad I got a win."

Lecavalier accounted for all the offense in the shootout, roofing a sharp backhander over goaltender Kari Lehtonen in the opening round.

"I went high," Lecavalier said. "I tried to get (Lehtonen) down and tried to play it as low as I can because he's a big guy."

Ryan Craig scored both goals in regulation for the Lightning, who went 1-for-7 with the man advantage.

Marian Hossa and captain Scott Mellanby each had a power-play tally and an assist for the Thrashers, who went 2-for-6 with the extra skater. Last season, Atlanta led the NHL with 58 road power-play goals and had a league-best 21 percent conversion rate away from home.

Defenseman Steve McCarthy added two assists and Lehtonen finished with 24 saves for the Thrashers, who registered six shots in the first period but only five over the final 45 minutes in falling to 2-4-1 in season openers.

"When we're on the top of our game and we're skating like in the first period, we're going to create some damage," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "Obviously, you get a 2-0 (lead) and you play basically a perfect first period, then it's disappointing to look at the second and the third. I don't think we gave them much. I think we saw the best and the worst of us."

Mellanby opened the scoring 7:06 into the contest and set up Hossa 5 1/2 minutes later during a 5-on-3 advantage, sending a cross-crease pass that the Czech lifted under the crossbar to beat a defenseless Denis.

But that capped the offense for the Thrashers, who struggled against the Lightning's defensive pressure for most of the game. Even when not facing any defense, Atlanta struggled in the shootout as Kozlov and Sim failed on weak attempts before Kovalchuk had his wrister denied by Denis' pad.

"We just didn't generate a lot (of offense)," Mellanby said. "We had a hard time getting to the offensive end and getting to the neutral zone. They played a very high-pressure game."

After scoring 15 goals in 48 games as a rookie last season, Craig netted his first of 2006-07 early in the second period, beating Lehtonen on a deflection of a shot by Brad Richards.

Craig struck again in the opening stages of the third period, tying the game on an impressive individual effort. The 6-2, 220-pounder was camped in front of the net when he took a feed from Nikita Alexeev, muscled the puck to his backhand and slipped a shot past Lehtonen.

"It's nice to get the two goals, but the two points are better," Craig said. "It's a good way to start the season."

No one has shouted yet.
Be the first!