Win or lose, one thing has been consistent for the Tampa Bay Lightning. They just can’t help but to keep earning points in the standings.
Sean Bergenheim scored the go-ahead goal just 14 seconds into the final period, but Tampa Bay couldn’t hold on to a 2-1 lead in the final 19 minutes as it fell to the division-rival Florida Panthers 3-2 in a shootout Saturday night.
“That was a tough one to take,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “We outshot them, we outchanced them, they scored on the same shots we made, but ours didn’t go in.”
Despite dropping five of the last seven games, Tampa Bay has gained points in 10 of the team’s last 13 contests to keep pace ahead of the Washington Capitals with 75 points in first place of the Southeast Division standings.
Dan Ellis made 24 saves on the night in his first outing since a 4-3 overtime win on Feb. 6 against the St. Louis Blues.
“I thought he was fantastic and made some big saves,” forward Nate Thompson said. “That’s why it’s disappointing. We wanted to win it for him.”
David Booth and Mike Santorelli each scored power-play goals for Florida, which bounced back from a 4-3 regulation loss to the Detroit Red Wings Friday night in the first game of a back-to-back series.
Santorelli also had the lone goal in the shootout, beating Ellis with a quick wrist shot over the glove in the first round.
Florida’s stretch of close games continued Saturday, as 19 of its last 22 games have been decided by a single goal.
“That was probably not how we would have guessed the game would have gone,” Florida head coach Peter DeBoer does. “It’s not always pretty and we don’t always win, but the one thing this team does is we don’t cheat fans with our effort.”
Scott Clemmensen turned back 34 of 36 shots and three straight chances in the tiebreaker to preserve the win.
He yielded the game’s first goal to Lightning defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron, who opened the scoring at 4:45 in the first.
Tampa Bay is 22-7-4 when scoring the game’s first goal this season.
Booth tied the contest at one with a deflection to open the second period. He got his shin out and in front of Ellis as Dennis Wideman fired a shot from the point.
A boarding penalty sent Thompson to the box at 15:26 in the third after the Lightning forward didn’t hear the officials’ whistle blow and proceeded with the play from behind.
“You get a point when you’re trailing, it always feel better,” Boucher said. “You’re leading, you have control of the game and everyone’s playing really well, especially with that penalty that was taken there, it was a real close, close, close icing call and not a very big check.”
Santorelli took full advantage and knocked home a rebound between Ellis’ legs on the ensuing power play at 17:00 to knot things up at two apiece after Bergenheim gave the Lightning a one-goal lead to open the final period.
“We were never more than one goal down and we were able to get that big goal at the end of the third period to force overtime,” Clemmensen said.
Steven Stamkos went his fifth straight game without a goal. He nearly won the contest with two minutes remaining in the extra session, banking a slap shot with the man advantage off the post from the left circle.
Martin St. Louis notched an assist, extending his assist streak to six games with seven in that span.
“We knew it was going to be difficult,” Ellis said. “We knew we had to gear up, but we came up short. We’ve been able to get a point here and there, but it doesn’t really hit out standard. We expect to win every night, we just weren’t able to bury it tonight.”
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