Wins have been hard to come by recently, but that hasn’t stopped the Tampa Bay Lightning from continuing to earn points to keep pace ahead of a number of teams in the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
Tampa Bay closed out a four-game road trip, earning at least a point in each contest during the stretch, which concluded Saturday night with a 3-2 overtime loss to the Ottawa Senators at ScotiaBank Place.
Nick Foligno’s goal at 16:05 of the second period tied the game at two and sent the contest into the extra session, which was the third in four games for the Lightning to go into extra time.
Tampa Bay, fifth in the East, got goals from Vincent Lecavalier and Dana Tyrell. Dwayne Roloson made 31 saves and pitched over two and half periods of shutout hockey before yielding Ottawa’s first goal to Ryan Shannon at 12:27 of the third period.
The 41-year-old goalie appeared destined for his fifth shutout in 27 games with Tampa Bay since he was acquired in a Jan. 1 trade with the New York Islanders until Shannon beat him on a deke with 7:33 left in regulation to complete a shorthanded breakaway, giving the Senators life with which they rode throughout the remainder of the period and into the extra session.
Jason Spezza notched the game-winner at 3:28 in overtime for Ottawa, who has won five of its previous seven games. Spezza initially lost control of the puck while skating in through the slot, but it trickled in past Roloson to cap the comeback, which was marked by three consecutive Senators goals.
“We wanted to make sure we were more reliable defensively,” head coach Guy Boucher said. “Lately, I thought we had been doing a great job of that.”
Lecavalier scored on a breakaway early in the first to put Tampa Bay up 1-0. The Lightning captain took a pass from Nate Thompson along the boards and skated in one-on-one on Curtis McElhinney before beating the Ottawa net minder high over the right shoulder with a wrist shot into the top left corner at 6:32.
“It was a play in transition so that’s why I could anticipate a little bit,” Lecavalier said. “I knew one of our guys would get to the puck, it was Nate, and he made a great play. Real heads-up. He’s a smart player and is very useful on our line.”
Tampa Bay continued to generate a number of solid scoring chances midway through the opening period even after Lecavalier opened the game’s scoring. Steven Stamkos nearly had a chance to put the Lightning up by two, but his shot just more than halfway through the period went off the post. Then, Blair Jones nearly put one in from in close, but McElhinney gloved a put-back attempt from the top of the crease to keep the game at 1-0. He rose to the occasion a third time in the period after also denying Dominic Moore on a similar play from the low slot with a pad save on a rebound attempt.
McElhinney finished the night by turning back 35 of 37 shots.
Roloson was not nearly as busy through the first two periods, but still turned in a strong performance despite only facing 12 shots through 40 minutes, including just three in the first period. The Lightning net minder made a series of nifty saves, including shutting down a pair of prime Ottawa scoring chances by Shannon, as well as Chris Neil the second frame. He then denied Bobby Butler with another huge stop in the third period.
“We just needed to make sure we did the right things in the defensive zone,” Lightning forward Teddy Purcell said. “We really wanted to make it hard on them to get through our defensive zone. I think we took advantage of that and used that to try and go the other way with our transition game.”
Tampa Bay went up 2-0 at 7:42 of the second. Tyrell skated in on McElhinney, who made a partial pad save on the Lightning forward, only to have the puck carom off the stick of Ottawa defenseman Filip Kuba and into the net with Sean Bergenheim and Adam Hall crashing in on the play as Kuba attempted to clear the puck from the crease.
“That was a great feed from Bergie,” Tyrell said. “If I had taken it half a foot further I think I would have gone straight in, but it was a great crash on the net by Hall and Bergie to make the puck slide right in.”
Tampa Bay earned points in each of the four games on the road trip for the first time since it went 3-0-1 during a similar four-game stretch in the early part of the 2006-07 season.
Saturday’s loss in overtime gave the Lightning 89 points, one behind Pittsburgh for the fourth spot in the Eastern Conference.
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