"It's not our goal to get in and be happy with the first round," forward Ryan Malone said Thursday night after a 2-1 victory against the Pittsburgh Penguins officially clinched a playoff berth for the Bolts..
"A very good team," Penguins coach Dan Bylsma said. "A scary team."
Bylsma and the Pens are likely to see a lot more of the Lightning -- the teams are likely to meet in the opening round.
Owner Jeff Vinik, who bought the team just over a year ago and hired GM Steve Yzerman and coach Guy Boucher during the summer, was ecstatic.
"They deserve it," Vinik said. "We're excited to be in the playoffs. It's great to see the results on the ice."
Pittsburgh, which had won its previous four road games, got a third-period goal from Michael Rupp. The Penguins missed out on a chance to move within two points of Atlantic Division-leading Philadelphia, which lost 1-0 to Atlanta.
"We've got to finish strong," Rupp said. "Our goal is to have Game 1 (of the playoffs) in Pittsburgh."
Penguins center Sidney Crosby, sidelined for nearly three months with a concussion, skated at the morning practice but is not ready yet to participate in full practices. The Penguins aren't saying if or when he will play again this season. They are 19-13-5 without him.
Downie put the Lightning ahead by backhanding a rebound past Marc-Andre Fleury 4:51 after the opening faceoff. St. Louis made it 2-0 at 10:13 by whipping a shot from the lower right circle just under the crossbar to the short side. Vincent Lecavalier set up the goal with a check on Penguins defenseman Kris Letang that freed the puck for St. Louis -- who reached the 30-goal mark for the fifth time in his career.
"The credit goes to the players," Boucher said. "It's a bunch of new people trying to accomplish something. Everybody trying to do their part. We wanted to change the culture."
Lecavalier has 6 assists and 8 points during a six-game point streak. The Lightning captain has 12 assists and 24 points in his last 23 games.
"It's the beginning," Lecavalier said. "It means a lot. We had a few tough years."
Rupp cut the deficit to 2-1 on the Penguins' seventh shot of the period on Roloson 4:31 into the third, ending a personal 13-game goal drought.
"I think it showed in the second and the third the way we can control a game and really press on a team," Penguins center Jordan Staal said. "If we start off like that and do that for three periods, it's tough for a team to face that."
Pittsburgh, including five failed chances Thursday, has just two power-play goals in its last 50 opportunities.
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report