While the Philadelphia Flyers sat back and waited for their chance to score at one end of the ice, Brett Connolly took full advantage of his own opportunity down at the other.
Connolly's game-winning goal 2:30 into overtime gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-1 victory over Philadelphia Wednesday night at the St. Pete Times Forum, capping a game that saw the Lightning overcome at least a one-goal deficit for the third consecutive time to win.
The rookie forward’s third of the season came off Dominic Moore’s shot as he skated in on Flyers net minder Ilya Bryzgalov. After Bryzgalov made an initial save, the puck kicked out in the slot right to Connolly, who buried it in the top left corner of the net.
"It always feels great to score," Connolly said. “For the team to get the win too is great.”
With the Lightning on the power play, a one-timer from Bergeron at the point erased a one-goal deficit to even things up at one with just over 12 minutes to go in regulation. The goal vaulted Bergeron into the NHL lead among defensemen with 16 points on the year.
Each of Tampa Bay's past three wins have come in extra time, either in overtime or the shootout. With Wednesday's victory, the Lightning collected their 18th point of the season, tying them with the Washington Capitals for first place in the Southeast Division.
"I think part of our success is not getting sidetracked from our game plan," Moore said. "We have stuck with it enough times and have had success that we know we have the ability to make those plays when we have to. That’s a good sign."
A scoreless first period manifested itself in part due to Tampa Bays neutral zone defensive scheme, which caused Philadelphia to stall in its own zone several times, drawing the ire of the home crowd with the St. Pete Times Forum.
As a result, following 20 minutes, Tampa Bay held a slight advantage in shots over Philadelphia, managing just seven and six, respectively. Heading into the overtime period, Philadelphia had registered just 14 shots throughout the entire night, which marked the fewest Tampa Bay has allowed in regulation all season.
As the two clubs spent a good portion of the game staring each other down in a stalemate on each side of the blue line, the debate on Twitter heated up as to whether the Flyers stall tactics were justified.
The officials consulted over at the bench with Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette several times after blowing the whistle to counter the lack of puck movement. Upon ensuing faceoff after faceoff, the Flyers continued the routine by passing the puck back and forth in their own zone, daring a Tampa Bay forechecker to make the first move.
"I think the rule needs some clarification,” Laviolette said. "The officials said the puck needs to be moving and there was movement, but the play was blown dead again."
While the strategy tested the patience of the sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Times Forum, not many players over in the Lightning locker room seemed to mind.
"You can't blame anybody for that," Moore added. "We have our own system, they have their own system, and that's the way it is. You can't get frustrated by it, you just have to continue to play your game and not worry about it.
An attempt to pick up the pace of play resulted in four Philadelphia power-play chances during the second period, as the Lightning were whistled for eight penalty minutes after being called for just one infraction through the opening 20 minutes.
It seemed to work.
Scott Hartnell notched the game’s opening goal with the man advantage after tipping in a Jakub Voracek shot from the point with 10:26 left.
After Bergeron drew the Lightning even, Tampa Bay nearly went up by one in the final six minutes when a rebound bounced out in front right onto the stick of Connolly, who fanned on the shot before having the puck dumped down in the other end.
The overtime winner was Connolly's third goal in the past four games for the Lightning, who have won seven of their past nine games.
"There's a lot of character in this room," Connolly said. "We have guys that never quit and there are a lot of veterans in here who have been here before and who are great leaders."