The Tampa Bay Lightning were rewarded even following a tough loss.
The Lightning did not earn points in the standings for just the first time in the team’s last nine games, but did leave the ice Tuesday night with both the approval of their head coach, as well as a sense of accomplishment resulting from a hard-fought game.
With a power-play goal from Steven Stamkos, and a pair of additional tallies from Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay overcame three one-goal deficits and came 20 seconds away from extending its season-long point streak to nine games, but instead fell to the Boston Bruins 4-3 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Former Lightning forward Mark Recchi scored the game-winning goal with the man advantage at 19:40 in the final period, which came as a result of a questionable boarding call on Stamkos for a hit along the end boards on Gregory Campbell with 1:50 left in regulation.
“I thought it was a shoulder-to-shoulder hit,” Stamkos said. “Obviously he went into the boards pretty hard, but by no means was I trying to hurt the guy. From my vantage point I was coming hard on the back check, he had the puck and my left shoulder hit his right shoulder. I don’t know why that’s a penalty.”
Boston also got goals from Michael Ryder, Steven Kampfer and Brad Marchand.
Ryder opened up the scoring 28 seconds into the game on the power play, helping the Bruins improve to 15-1-1 this season when scoring first. Boston jumped Montreal to take sole possession of first place in the Northeast Division with 44 points following consecutive road wins.
The loss was the Lightning’s first in regulation since a Dec. 7 defeat at Calgary. After sharing the top spot in the Southeast Division standings, Tampa Bay fell to second following a 3-0 shutout of Montreal by the division-leading Washington Capitals.
“It’s very disappointing,” Stamkos added. “I thought we played a very solid game, and for a penalty to be the deciding factor with under two minutes in a great hockey game, it’s tough to swallow, especially not even getting at least a point.”
Dan Ellis turned back 25 of 29 shots for Tampa Bay, 6-1-2 over the last nine games.
Stamkos tied the contest at 7:10, finding a loose puck in the crease following a scramble out in front. With Bruins net minder Tim Thomas on his back, the Lightning forward gathered the puck at the far post after Ryan Malone’s initial shot was deflected through traffic.
“We found a way,” Thomas said. “Whenever they scored to catch up, we never let them carry any momentum. The next shift we came out and battled hard. And we got big goals at big times.”
Kampfer gave the Bruins a 2-1 advantage with the first of his career at 3:27, but Lecavalier brought the Lightning even with a nifty wrap-around nearly 11 minutes later as he slid the puck underneath Thomas’ stick.
Lecavalier and Stamkos both have goals in three straight games.
Marchand returned to the lineup after missing three games with an undisclosed injury. He regained the lead with a backhand past Ellis at the top of the crease three minutes into the final period.
St. Louis then beat Thomas with 9:10 remaining in regulation after taking a Stamkos pass from along the end boards and firing a quick wrist shot from the side of the net to knot the contest at three goals apiece.
Recchi’s game-winner with 19.7 seconds left was the 570th goal of his career.
“This is the first one of the year where you feel you have to tell your players that next time, make the same play,” Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “We’re not going to change our style and I’m certainly not going to point any fingers at my players. They battled hard.”
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