ANAHEIM, Calif. - Playing their first game without No. 1 draft pick Steven Stamkos, the Tampa Bay Lightning showed their young star how much conditioning plays a part in having success late in games.
Ryan Malone scored his second goal of the contest with 9:10 left in the third period to put Tampa Bay ahead for good after it blew a two-goal lead, and Martin St. Louis had a short-handed goal and two assists in the Lightning's 4-3 victory over Anaheim on Friday night.
''The guys showed some of the will and the character to win, and that can go a long way for a lot of players when you win games like that,'' coach Rick Tocchet said. ''Guys were staying the course in the third period and playing a bend-not-break kind of defence.''
Vinny Prospal also scored and Vincent Lecavalier had two assists for the Lightning, 7-12-6 since Tocchet replaced Barry Melrose as coach on Nov. 14.
''These last 12-15 games we've really been coming together and playing more as a team,'' Malone said. ''I think everybody's realizing that when we're playing the system the right way, we have success. Everybody is on the same page, and everyone knows where each other's going to be in the neutral zone and the offensive zone.''
Stamkos was put on a conditioning program by Tocchet to build up his strength after a 16-game stretch in which he had only one goal and two assists. The six-foot, 180-pound centre, who turns 19 on Feb. 7, will be given a game off here and there during the rest of the season to put in some extra work.
He will not sit out consecutive games, though, which means he will match up against No. 2 overall pick Drew Doughty when the Lightning play Los Angeles on Monday night.
''I don't consider it a healthy scratch, just because he didn't dress,'' Tocchet said. ''He'll be back in the lineup the next game, and we're going to stick with a schedule. He got some work done off the ice today. This is a learning curve, and this is part of the process for him.''
Stamkos, selected Friday to play in the NHL YoungStars game on Jan. 24 in Montreal, has four goals and 10 assists in 40 games after averaging 62 games in each of the previous two seasons with the Sarnia Sting of the OHL. His plus-minus rating with the Lightning is minus-11.
''He's only 18, so for him just to be in the NHL now is great,'' Malone said. ''He's learning every day, so our job as players is to kind of take him under our wing and show him what it takes. He's going to continue to learn and have a long and great career in the NHL.''
Karri Ramo, who has been backing up Mike Smith in net the past three weeks while Olaf Kolzig recovers from an undisclosed upper-body injury, made 29 saves in his first start of the season.
''He was solid,'' Prospal said. ''He made the key saves when he had to, but we didn't give him a lot of support back there. But we were still tied 3-3 on the road against a very good team, and I think we just wanted it more than they did. If I exclude those 20 seconds at the end of the second period, I think we played a solid game.''
Rookie Andrew Ebbett had a goal and an assist for Anaheim, and defencemen Steve Montador and Chris Pronger scored 12 seconds apart late in the second period to tie it at three. But Malone scored his third game-winner of the season on a rebound of Jeff Halpern's short wrist shot, giving him 12 goals for the season and five in his last seven games.
''Every chance they had, they seemed to put the puck in the back of the net on us,'' Ducks captain Scott Niedermayer said. ''That's the way it goes sometimes if you don't play your best. You pay the price. We need to be doing more what we're doing.''
Malone gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead at 17:51 of the second period while Pronger was off for cross-checking Paul Szczechura. But Montador scored on a wrist shot from the top of the right circle just 37 seconds later, and Pronger got the equalizer on a short wrist shot that beat Ramo to the glove side at 18:40 of the period.
''After that happened, the word on the bench was just to keep our composure and worry about what we could control,'' Malone said. ''Guys were getting carried away with the refs missing a call here and there, but then we did a good job of settling down and going back to our game plan.''
Tampa Bay opened the scoring at 3:38 of the first while killing off a tripping penalty against Ryan Craig. St. Louis carried the puck into the zone against Pronger and swerved around the five-time all-star defenceman before beating Jonas Hiller to the glove side with a short wrist shot. It was St. Louis' 16th goal, tying Lecavalier for the team lead.
Notes: Ducks RW Corey Perry finished serving his four-game suspension for elbowing Philadelphia's Claude Giroux in the head. . Anaheim recalled LW Matt Beleskey from Iowa of the AHL. He made his NHL debut in place of C Todd Marchant, who was scratched for the first time this season because of an upper body injury. . The Ducks are 14-0-0 when leading after two periods - but have taken a lead into the third only once in their last 10 games. . Nine of Lecavalier's 16 goals this season have come in Tampa Bay's 12 victories, including three two-goal efforts. . St. Louis' short-handed goal was the third allowed by Anaheim this season and the second scored by Tampa Bay. The other also was by St. Louis, who has 27 in his NHL career.