ATLANTA - Once again, John Grahame and the Tampa Bay Lightning made the high-scoring Atlanta Thrashers look downright feeble.
Grahame shut out the Thrashers for the second time this season, turning aside 20 shots in a 2-0 victory Saturday night that lifted the Lightning back into second place in the Southeast Division.
Vincent Lecavalier and Fredrik Modin scored power-play goals for the Lightning, which won its third straight - all on the road. Even playing for the second straight night, Tampa Bay stifled the Thrashers, who lost a wild 8-6 game in Los Angeles on Thursday and ranked fifth in the NHL in goals per contest.
"They have so much firepower, you have to try to match their intensity," Grahame said. "You give them an inch and they'll score a dozen goals."
The Thrashers couldn't even get one against Grahame, a U.S. Olympic goalie who also blanked Atlanta 6-0 on Oct. 20. He has three shutouts overall.
Tampa Bay kept up the pressure by sending two forecheckers into the Thrashers' zone, while the Lightning's own defensemen jumped up to contain prolific wingers such as Ilya Kovalchuk and Marian Hossa, who totaled only seven shots and didn't have any exceptional chances.
"They made us look like we were skating in slush," Thrashers captain Scott Mellanby said. "There was a lot of slop out there. Give them credit. They executed."
Tampa Bay won its third in a row, while the Thrashers have lost two straight after winning seven of eight. The Lightning improved to 53 points - one ahead of the Thrashers, who slipped into the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"It's only one game," Thrashers coach Bob Hartley said. "It's not the end of the world."
Modin scored a fluke goal off a double-ricochet in the first period, then Lecavalier iced it for the Lightning with 7:27 remaining. After Darryl Sydor fired a shot off the post, Lecavalier backhanded a loose puck past goalie Keri Lehtonen from the side of the net.
The opening period was largely uneventful until the Thrashers were called for two straight penalties. They killed off the first one, only to have Serge Aubin get whistled for hooking just 7 seconds later.
This time, the Lightning took advantage. Brad Richards attempted a shot from near the left circle, but the puck deflected off Thrashers defenseman Niclas Havelid, then bounced off Fredrik Modin, who was tied up with Atlanta's Andy Sutton in front of the net. Lehtonen had no idea where the puck was as it slid past him for Modin's 19th goal.
"We're not trying to do anything fancy," Modin said. "We're just chipping away."
Lehtonen came up with one of his best saves of the season early in the second period. Martin St. Louis stole the puck in the Thrashers zone, took off to the Atlanta net and slipped a pass to Lecavalier breaking in alone off right wing.
The Lightning star appeared to have a certain goal, but Lehtonen snatched the puck out of the air with a brilliant glove save as he sprawled across the crease.
Lecavalier got payback in the third, however, with his 20th of the season.
"From that angle, I didn't think he would be able to score," Lehtonen said. "It was a good shot."
The Thrashers had a couple of good chances on a power play late in the second period. Marc Savard got an open look streaking off left wing, but made an ill-advised pass in front that was broken up by Tampa Bay.
Savard got another chance from straight on with the clock winding down, but his blistering shot caught the post to Grahame's left as the horn sounded. It wasn't clear if the shot would have counted even if the puck had gone in.
Notes: The standing-room turnout of 18,704 was Atlanta's third sellout and the second-largest crowd of the season, surpassed only by the 18,759 that attended the home opener.... Tampa Bay went up in the season series, 3-2.... Grahame has 10 career shutouts.... Lehtonen made 22 saves.... The Thrashers had won a franchise-record four in a row at Philips Arena.
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