Antti Niemi is taking full advantage of his limited time in goal for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Niemi made 18 saves for his third shutout in seven starts this season, and Marian Hossa had a goal and an assist in Chicago's 4-0 victory over visiting Tampa Bay last night.

Patrick Kane, Ben Eager and Jonathan Toews also scored for the Blackhawks, who have won three of four and improved to 6-1-1 against Eastern Conference teams.

Niemi, who made his eighth appearance, has started three times since Nov. 7. He has allowed just one goal, posted two shutouts and stopped 80 shots in those games.

"You don't want to feel too confident, but I feel pretty good," Niemi said. "I've never played so many shutouts. I've had good stretches, but not like this.

"We had it pretty easy today. It was not too hard for me."

The Lightning dropped to 0-3-1 in their last four games, scoring just 13 goals in a 1-6-2 slide.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville likes the way the 26-year-old Niemi complements No. 1 goalie Cristobal Huet.

"It's been a nice 1-2 punch," Quenneville said. "Niemi's solid. You see his size and his presence in the net. He challenges and his rebound control is in order.

"The last two starts he might have been overworked. Tonight he did what he had to do. He keeps himself ready whether he's out for 2 weeks or out for a week."

Kane left the game with 6 minutes, 59 seconds left in the first period due to a cut above the eye and didn't return. He landed hard after Tampa Bay's Matt Smaby tripped him along the boards.

"It's not bad, "Quenneville said, "They had to stitch it up."

Antero Niittymaki stopped 25 shots for the Lightning.

Both teams continued to struggle on the power play. Tampa Bay went 0-for-5 and has failed on 13 straight chances. Chicago went 0-for-7 and has scored on one of its last 19 advantages.

"When you're losing, you've just got to keep believing in the locker room you can win," Tampa Bay coach Rick Tocchet said. "When there's pressure, it just seem like we cave in certain situations."

In another game:

* At Denver, Wojtek Wolski, Chris Stewart and Darcy Tucker scored the goals as the Colorado Avalanche moved into first place in the Northwest Division with a 3-2 victory over the Calgary Flames.

Rene Bourque and Mark Giordano scored for Calgary. The Flames pulled Miikka Kiprusoff for an extra attacker with around a minute remaining, but couldn't tie the score.

Kiprusoff gave up three goals, the most he has allowed since surrendering six in a loss to Chicago on Nov. 19.

The Avalanche have won four of their last five to take a two-point lead over the Flames in the division.