ATLANTA — The Tampa Bay Lightning are no longer a last-place team or winless in Atlanta for nearly two years.
Martin St. Louis scored twice, and Mike Smith made 27 saves to help the Lightning move out of the Southeast Division basement with a 4-1 victory over the Thrashers on Sunday night. Tampa Bay (11-18-10) has 32 points, one more than Atlanta (13-22-5).
“I’ve got to question whether anybody cares in that locker room right now,” Thrashers coach John Anderson said. “It’s a joke.”
Steve Eminger and Ryan Malone also scored for Tampa Bay, which had lost six straight games in Atlanta.
The Lightning were 2-for-4 on the power play, with Eminger scoring with a man-advantage in the first period and St. Louis early in the third.
Atlanta, which beat Vancouver 4-3 in a shootout Friday night, hasn’t won consecutive games since a five-game winning streak in early November. The Thrashers are 6-14-3 since.
Tampa Bay’s last previous victory in Atlanta was a 5-4 overtime decision on Feb. 22, 2007. The Lightning lost the final game of that season in Atlanta, all four games last season and a 4-3 decision on Dec. 20 in their first visit this season.
“Obviously, the last time we were here, we were very disappointed with our performance and the result,” St. Louis said. “Since then we have been playing much better hockey.”
Smith’s shutout bid ended with 21.2 seconds left when Erik Christensen scored off a rebound during a scramble in front of the net.
“It didn’t matter,” said Smith, who has two shutouts this season. “The win is what’s important. (A shutout) is just a bonus.”
Smith bounced back from a 7-4 loss to Washington in his previous start. “He’s a real competitor. He takes losses hard,” Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said of his goalie. “I wanted to get the shutout for Smitty.”
“I got to redeem myself,” Smith said. “Hopefully I can keep it going, but it was a good way to start the road trip.”
Bryan Little, Atlanta’s leader with 19 goals, left the game in the second period because of a rib injury and didn’t return. The 21-year-old forward played just 5:44 and didn’t have a shot.
Tampa Bay, which came in on a three-game losing streak, cashed in on a power play just 2:48 into the game. It was the third goal of the season for Eminger, who took a pass from Jussi Jokinen and beat Lehtonen with a shot from near the right faceoff circle. The Atlanta goalie appeared to be screened by Thrashers defenseman Boris Valabik on the play. The goal came 54 seconds after Mathieu Schneider was called for hooking.
St. Louis made it a two-goal edge for the Lightning with 3:20 remaining in the second period. Vincent Lecavalier faked a slap shot from the right faceoff circle and passed into the slot to St. Louis, who tipped the puck past Lehtonen.
St. Louis’ second goal came on a power play a minute into the third period. Vaclav Prospal carried the puck in behind the net and passed back in front to St. Louis, who put a quick shot by Lehtonen for his 14th goal of the season. Tobias Enstrom had put the Lightning on the power play on a tripping penalty with 4 seconds left in the second period.
Malone scored his 10th goal with 1:44 left in the game, knocking his own rebound in off Lehtonen’s skate. Lehtonen made 31 saves.
“We need to dig deep and come out with better efforts,” Thrashers winger Chris Thorburn said.
Notes: Tampa Bay D Andrej Meszaros played despite needing 64 stitches to close a gash under his nose suffered when he was hit by a puck Saturday in a 3-2 loss to Carolina. He wore a full face shield. ... Atlanta rookie D Zach Bogosian, who played one game after returning from a broken leg, was sent to Chicago (AHL) on a conditioning assignment. ... The Thrashers will play their next three games on the road. ... The Lightning opened a five-game trip.