Vincent Lecavalier helped the Tampa Bay Lightning get back on the winning track. It just took a few extra minutes.
The Lightning captain turned in the game-winning goal with seven seconds left in overtime and Dan Ellis made 29 saves in his first start since Jan. 21 as the Southeast-leading Lightning beat the St. Louis Blues 4-3 on Sunday.
After St. Louis defenseman Eric Brewer was called for a holding penalty 3:40 into the extra session, Lecavalier found a rebound out in front and backhanded a shot through the legs of Ty Conklin, who finished the night with 36 stops on 40 shots.
“This was, in terms of hard-fought games, physical,” Tampa Bay head coach Guy Boucher said. “It was one of the nost physical and intense games yet this year.”
The Lightning’s victory Sunday kept pace with the Eastern Conference-leading Flyers, who lead Tampa Bay by four points at the top of the standings. It also was the 12th victory in the last 14 home games for Tampa Bay, which bounced back from a 5-2 loss versus Washington Friday that snapped a six-game win streak.
“You can say it as much as you want, but you have to go out there and prove it and do it,” Stamkos said. “That’s what our team did tonight.”
Nikita Nikitin scored the go-ahead goal for the Blues at 13:09 of the middle frame, capping a three-goal second period that took a 3-3 tie into the final 20 minutes after Downie knotted things up just 30 seconds later with his sixth of the season.
Patrik Berglund and David Backes each had additional goals for St. Louis. The Blues have lost five of six and 11 of the last 14 overall after enjoying an 8-1-2 start to the season.
“It’s kind of been like that most of the year,” Blues forward Andy McDonald said. “There have been a lot of ups and down. I think it’s a reflection of our young team and I guess it’s sort of a work in progress. We’ve got to find a way to get out of this slide.”
Stamkos opened the scoring from in-close to make it 1-0 at 18:43.
The Lightning forward’s league-leading 40th of the season joined him alongside captain Vincent Lecavalier as the only other player in franchise history to record back-to-back 40-goal seasons. His four points Sunday afternoon tied a season-high and gives him 15 points in his last 10 games.
“He was flying,” Boucher said of the young center. “He was demanding the puck and really driving the boat. To me, by far, this was his best game of the year.”
Brett Clark recorded an assist on Stamkos’ game-opening goal, giving him points in four straight and marking a career-high.
Berglund tied it just 30 seconds into the second, but Moore’s ninth of the year made it 2-1 2:03 later.
The teams combined for three goals in a span of 2:34 to close out the second period.
A deflection off Backes knotted things up on the power play before the Blues took their first lead with a slap shot from the blue line sent in by Nikitin.
Downie’s goal at 13:39 sent the contest into overtime, the first in the extra session for the Lightning since enduring a stretch of three straight in additional time from Jan. 18 – 21.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, recalled from Norfolk of the American Hockey League Saturday, notched two assists in his first game as a member of the Lightning.
“Tonight we came out hard and we were physical,” Stamkos added. “We had a game plan and I think for the most part we followed it. I am glad to get the win.”
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