Not only did the Tampa Bay Lightning leave the BB&T Center in Sunrise with two crucial standings points, but they also collected a few style points as well.
Benoit Pouliot scored twice, including the game-winner 1:19 into overtime, and Steven Stamkos added a pair of goals and three points as the Lightning rallied from behind to defeat the Florida Panthers 6-5 in South Florida on Saturday afternoon.
The victory marked the third consecutive game that the Lightning overcame a multi-goal deficit, as Teddy Purcell tied the game 5-5 with 11 seconds remaining in regulation to send the game into the extra session, ensuring the Bolts at least a point.
Pouliot then won it after taking a fortunate bounce off the end boards and tapping it home past Jose Theodore from in front of the net.
“We were lucky to get the win, but it was just a matter of being in the right spot at the right time,” Purcell said.
Alex Killorn had the other goal for Tampa Bay, which snapped a season-high six-game winless streak.
Martin St. Louis added two assists, and Anders Lindback made 25 saves.
The win allowed Tampa Bay to keep pace ahead of the division-rival Panthers in the Southeast standings, as the Bolts padded their lead over Florida to three points.
Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky had third-period goals for Florida, which gave the Panthers a two-goal lead with approximately 17 minutes remaining in the game.
Tampa Bay, though, scored three times unanswered, including the final tally in overtime, to leave with the win.
“We’ve showed character all year,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “And it’s finally paying off.”
The rally started when Tampa Bay took advantage of a 4-on-3 power play just before the midway point of the final period, as Stamkos’ one-timer from the circle beat Theodore cleanly to make it 5-4 at 7:28 of the final frame.
Stamkos then sent a perfect pass to Purcell at the top of the slot in the game’s final minute, which led to the tying goal with the extra attacker on just 90 seconds before Pouliot won it with his fifth of the season.
Shawn Matthias, Jack Skille and Jerrod Smithson each scored for Florida, which has now lost four consecutive games, including three straight in overtime.
Theodore finished the afternoon with 30 saves.
Matthias opened the scoring just 48 seconds in after deflecting a shot from Mike Weaver through the five-hole of Lindback.
Tampa Bay, though, found itself out to a one-goal lead just seven minutes later, as a pair of tallies from Pouliot and Killorn just 2:03 apart made it 2-1 Lightning.
Pouliot tied it when he tapped home Vincent Lecavalier’s feed from in front of the net. Killorn’s first career NHL goal then gave the Lightning their first lead, after he sent a shot in that beat Theodore at 6:51.
“We needed to put pressure on them,” Lightning assistant coach Dan Lacroix said. “We’re a good team when we do that and we stressed that today, working hard, working on our compete level and winning battles.”
Skille opened the second period scoring and pulled Florida even when he sent a feed from Matthias past Lindback to tie it 2-2, but Stamkos reclaimed Tampa Bay’s lead just 1:15 later after roofing a backhand above Theodore following a scrum in front of the net.
It seemed as if the Bolts would head into the period that way, until Smithson knotted things up late, sneaking one past Lindback with just four seconds remaining in the middle frame to send a 3-3 tie into the intermission.
“We tried not to shoot ourselves in the foot by making mistakes that weren’t necessary,” Stamkos said. “We gave them some momentum late in the period there, but it was important for us to stick to the structure and close out the game.”
That they did, but not before Florida re-took the lead early in the third, as Huberdeau was credited with his sixth of the season after the puck deflected off Eric Brewer’s skate and caromed into the net.
Kopecky then made it 5-3 with a wrist shot from a sharp angle just 1:31 later before three consecutive goals capped the Lightning’s comeback effort and sealed the win.
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