The Tampa Bay Lightning spoiled a special night in Vancouver and turned it into one of their own.
Below the rafters where the jersey of Canucks great Markus Naslund hung following a retirement ceremony just 60 minutes before, Steven Stamkos scored the game-winner with his league-leading 11th power-play goal just 34 seconds into overtime to earn the Lightning their first-ever win in the city of Vancouver with a 5-4 victory over the Canucks Saturday night.
Stamkos, who now has goals in consecutive games after failing to light the lamp in his previous six, finished the night with three points, including an assist, to lead all skaters and take home the game’s first star honors.
“It feels good,” Stamkos said. “A huge win and a great way to end this road trip.”
Tampa Bay wrapped up the final game of three in a stretch that began Tuesday in Calgary and continued Friday night in Edmonton before the team improved to 4-2-1 in the second half of back-to-back sets Saturday night.
Dan Ellis stopped 23 shots in his fourth straight start for Tampa Bay, who won for the eighth time in a 13-game span since putting together a string of wins that began Nov. 17, also on the road.
Teddy Purcell matched a career-high with his sixth goal for the Lightning, which helped put them up 4-2 to open the third period.
Vancouver converted two of four power plays on the night and showed why it had the NHL’s top-ranked unit with the man advantage late in the game. It made things interesting when it climbed back into the contest halfway through the third period.
A controversial too many men on the ice penalty at 8:32 cost Tampa Bay when Henrik Sedin roofed a shot beneath the crossbar to score his fourth power-play goal of the season at 9:38, cutting the deficit to one.
Keith Ballard squared things up at four just six minutes into the third to erase the two-goal lead, which Purcell established after wristing a centering pass delivered by Stamkos from the high slot.
“I actually wasn’t calling for the puck,” Purcell said. “Stammer made a great play and was looking for Marty at first, but he saw me coming from behind, gave me a great pass, and I just stuck with the play.”
Tampa Bay’s win helped them improve to 12-0-1 when leading after two periods this season, despite squandering the comfortable lead.
“It was a little bit of a letdown. I think we were just trying to get the point towards the end,” Stamkos added. “There have been some ups and downs that have cost us some points, so we knew we had to bear down.”
Daniel Sedin and Manny Malhotra had the other two goals for the Canucks. They received an 18-save effort from backup net minder Cory Schneider.
Vancouver has lost two of its last three after stringing together wins in its previous four consecutive contests.
Nate Thompson tied it at one, whacking at a shot that snuck through the legs of Schneider after Sedin was credited with the game’s opening goal 10:23 into the first.
“It was just a great play from the start to get the puck on net,” Thompson said. “We got a great screen out in front.”
Defenseman Brett Clark established a career-high with his fifth power-play goal and spotted Tampa Bay a one-goal lead with over a minute gone in the second. The team leader in goals among defensemen wristed a rebound from the slot to beat the Vancouver net minder stick-side.
The Lightning, boasting the league’s third-best power play efficiency at 23.1 percent, have goals with the man advantage in two straight after enduring a 1-for-16 stretch in the team’s previous five road games prior to Saturday’s meeting.
Stamkos’ first of the night made it 3-1 with a tip-in at 3:02, less than two minutes after Clark increased the advantage.
Malhotra replied with a power-play goal of his own at 4:59, deflecting a shot from the point in front of Ellis to cut the deficit to one.
Tampa Bay came in with an all-time record of 0-8-2-1 in 11 games played in Vancouver, but have since won two straight over the Canucks after earning a victory in the only meeting of last season as well.
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