The Tampa Bay Lightning said goodbye to teammate Dominic Moore on Thursday night, but refused to do the same to any hope of making the playoffs.
Not long before the puck drop, Moore was traded in exchange for a second-round draft pick in 2012 to the San Jose Sharks, which soon after fell 6-5 in overtime after Martin St. Louis scored with 33 seconds remaining to earn Tampa Bay a huge two points and keep their playoff chances alive.
St. Louis also had a goal early in the third period for Tampa Bay, which snapped a two-game losing streak and now sits eight points back of Toronto for the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
“When the puck drops, you got to go play,” St. Louis said. “You start winning games, you never know. If we throw in the towel because of what’s going on around us it would be a pretty miserable last two months.”
With 4:27 gone in the extra frame, St. Louis took a centering feed from Victor Hedman behind the net and beat Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi high in the right corner. The goal also capped a night that saw seven lead changes, with neither team leading by more than one goal.
Steven Stamkos also scored twice and totaled four points on the night, while Teddy Purcell and Steve Downie had the Lightning’s other goals. Hedman added three assists to tie a single-game career-high, and Brendan Mikkelson also chipped in a pair of helpers for Tampa Bay, which received a 45-save effort from Dwayne Roloson.
San Jose outshot the Lightning 50-25 in the contest, which marked the most shots ever by a Lightning opponent in Tampa Bay.
“It didn’t look good at times, but we stuck through it,” St. Louis added. “I think Roli kept us in it. It could have been way worse. It was a big character win for us.”
The Sharks are now 1-1-1 on a nine-game road trip that continues Friday night at Carolina.
Logan Couture opened the high-scoring affair after taking a rebound off of Roloson’s pad and firing into the net for a quick 1-0 lead just 76 seconds following the initial puck drop.
Michal Handzus, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Colin White also scored in a three-goal second period for San Jose, which holds a four-point lead in the Pacific Division over the Los Angeles Kings.
Tampa Bay tied it 1-1 after Stamkos backhanded a rebound in from his knees at 9:30 of the opening frame, then took the lead as Purcell converted on the power play in the final minute of the first to put the Lightning up 2-1 heading into the intermission.
Much like in the first, the Sharks struck early in the second period to draw even. Handzus wristed one home from the slot after an initial shot deflected off of Roloson, who was sprawled on his stomach in the crease, and landed on the Sharks’ forward’s stick before he fired it into the empty net.
Just 29 seconds after Downie made it 3-2 at 14:08 of the middle frame, San Jose responded with a pair of goals just 67 seconds apart that gave it a one-goal lead going into the final 20 minutes.
First, Vlasic tied things up from the slot with his fourth of the season before White gave the Sharks their first lead since early in the game after he pounced on a juicy rebound in front and whacked it home for a 4-3 advantage.
Stamkos’ second of the night made it 4-4 after he beat Niemi with a wrist shot from the slot nearly three minutes into the final frame. Niemi made 19 saves on the night, but head coach Todd McLellan was not pleased with his team’s performance following the game.
“The six goals we gave up all night were disheartening,” McLellan said. “That’s as poor as we’ve played all season. Our net play was just atrocious. It was the goaltender, the defensemen and the forwards. I’m really disappointed in our group because they’re much better than that.”
Tampa Bay went up 5-4 at 8:01 of the final period when St. Louis put a shot on net that bounced across the crease and in the direction of Sharks defenseman Justin Braun, who attempted to clear the puck but inadvertently put it in his own net instead.
Tommy Wingels erased a one-goal deficit for the Sharks with approximately five minutes to go in regulation to tie it at 5-5 and send the game into the extra session, setting the stage for St. Louis’ late-game heroics.
“The word that comes to mind is character,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “Character, character, character. For us, it’s not about how many times we fall, it’s about what happens to us, how we react to it. We’re fighting.”