Martin St. Louis said it first worked in practice, then worked again Wednesday night when it counted.
St. Louis put a nifty move on goaltender Corey Crawford in the third round of the shootout and Dwayne Roloson stopped an additional three skaters in the tiebreaker after making 28 saves, as the Tampa Bay Lightning knocked off the defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in front of a near-sellout crowd at the St. Pete Times Forum.
St. Louis also added a goal in regulation and had an assist for Tampa Bay, which snapped a season-high four-game winless streak.
“I find that I have more success when I have fun with it,” St. Louis said. “If I try to keep it simple, I beat myself. There was no pressure, I just didn’t want to be scared of not scoring. I just wanted to go after it.”
Following two consecutive unsuccessful attempts by Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos, St. Louis skated through the slot and did a spin move in front of the net before hesitating, setting up and backhanding the game-winner past Crawford, who made 27 saves in regulation.
The loss was the second straight for the Blackhawks following a season-high eight-game win streak.
The Lightning rebounded from a previous shootout loss to the division-rival Capitals Monday night, leaving anyone’s best guess as to which players head coach Guy Boucher would send out against Chicago.
“They knew in advance and I had them practice,” Boucher said. They were prepared and they went with their best moves. I congratulated them.”
Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp and Jonathan Toews each scored for Chicago, which lost at Tampa Bay for the first time since December 2005.
A physical and fast-paced first period served as a good indication that both teams were coming off losses and looking to rebound with a win to keep pace in the playoff hunt.
Stamkos opened the scoring when he wristed one past Crawford at 11:07, breaking a six-game slump without a goal with his league-leading 42nd of the season.
Kane tied it at one when he beat Roloson from the slot. He got things started when he circled back around from the end boards and sent a pass over to Toews, who then returned the puck back to the Chicago forward for his 23rd of the year.
Teddy Purcell also added a goal for the Lightning, who scored more than two goals for just the second time in the last 10 games.
“Persistence,” Boucher added. “That’s the difference between the great ones and the others. The great ones don’t fall and not get up.”
Tampa Bay picked up its 84th point and trail Washington by two for the Southeast Division lead. The Capitals kept pace ahead of the Lightning with a 5-0 shutout versus Edmonton.
“We saw Washington was up 3-0 at the second intermission, so this was critical,” Stamkos said. “We were still pushing. We needed this game.”
St. Louis re-took the lead from below the left circle and beat Crawford high above the shoulder to the far post. Stamkos made the play possible after keeping the puck in the zone despite heavy pressure from a physical Chicago forecheck and finding St. Louis streaking down the side boards.
Sharp's 34th of the season pulled the Blackhawks to 3-2 after Purcell spotted Tampa Bay a two-goal advantage 1:20 into the period. Toews, who had a nine-game points streak stopped against Florida Tuesday night, had assists on the Blackhawks' first two goals and tied it at three with 16:30 remaining in regulation.
“We were down by two and they had a lot of things going for them early in the game,” Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville said. “I thought we chipped away and did what we had to do.”
St. Louis had a prime chance at the game-winner at 3:56 of the extra period, but his shot deflected off a body out in front and off the crossbar before Crawford gloved it to halt play. He caught a break earlier from defenseman Duncan Keith, who swatted away a shot by Dominic Moore from in-close.
Roloson showed off his skills too, no more so than when he stopped Bryan Bickell cold on a breakaway at 1:42 in overtime. He went on to stop three more Chicago shooters in the tiebreaker, including Toews, Kane and Blackhawks sniper Marian Hossa.
“It’s a huge win,” St. Louis said. “We’ve been playing pretty good hockey, we just haven’t gotten the results. Especially this time of year, it’s all about results. Tonight, it wasn’t pretty at times, but we found a way. We got it done.”
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