TAMPA - Guy Boucher obviously enjoys Steven Stamkos' offensive skills. The Tampa Bay coach is also impressed with the high-scoring center's improving defensive play.
Stamkos had his second hat trick this season and fifth overall to lift the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday.
"His back-checking ... four or five times he was just a jet out there," Boucher said. "You know what? He's part of the team."
Stamkos scored his third goal of the game and 26th of the season from the left circle on a power-play 43 seconds into the third. Just 22 seconds later Tampa Bay went up 4-2 on a goal by Teddy Purcell.
"He's pretty hot," Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis said of Stamkos. "He's flying."
The Lightning have won three in a row and five of seven.
"That was icing on the cake," Stamkos said of his hat trick.
Carolina, 1-7-2 in Southeast Division games this season, got goals from Justin Faulk and Jay Harrison.
"Tampa was ready in the third and we weren't, and they outplayed us," Hurricanes coach Kirk Muller said.
Hurricanes captain Eric Staal had two assists, giving him three assists and five points in his last two games.
St. Louis, who finished with three assists, recorded his 500th career assist on Stamkos' third goal.
"I'm proud of that," St. Louis said. "It's an honor to play this game."
The Lightning record for goals in a game is four, set by Chris Kontos in the team's first game on Oct. 7, 1992 against Chicago.
Steve Downie scored a third-period goal at 6:51 and also had two assists for the Lightning. Mathieu Garon made 24 saves.
Carolina's Cam Ward stopped 27 shots.
After Harrison scored a power-play goal 4:29 into the second, Stamkos got Tampa Bay even at 2 from the slot at 8:17.
Stamkos put the Lightning up 1-0 off a pass through the crease by St. Louis during a 2-on-1 at 3:22 of the first. Stamkos has 10 goals and three assists over his last eight games.
"He's a world-class player," Muller said. "When you give him opportunities like that, he's going to capitalize. He plays at a high tempo. He's a natural goal scorer, and he makes players better around him."
St. Louis has seven assists and one goal during a five-game point streak
Faulk tied it at 1 on a rebound power-play goal from the low left circle with 3:48 remaining in the first. The Hurricanes entered play with the NHL's third-worst power play.
"I think once they got that third goal, our play broke down there," Faulk said. "We've got to learn to play 60-minute games."
NOTES: Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman said D Victor Hedman, hurt in Tuesday night's game against Philadelphia, has a concussion and will be sidelined indefinitely. ... Staal played in his 600th NHL game. Teammate, C Tuomo Ruutu, appeared in his 500th NHL game. ... Tampa Bay C Nate Thompson (lower body) will be re-evaluated Monday, while Lightning RW Ryan Shannon (knee) is two to three weeks from returning. ... Faulk and Harrison both stopped personal eight-game goal droughts. ... Harrison was minus-4 for the game.
Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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