Add yet another NHL record to the books for Tampa Bay Lightning forward Steven Stamkos.
The Bolts’ superstar center took all of 45 seconds to beat Ondrej Pavelec from the right circle to claim an NHL single-season record fifth overtime game-winning goal and propel the Lightning to a 3-2 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.
Ryan Malone also had two goals, and Sebastien Caron stopped 26 shots for Tampa Bay, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
“To be honest, I don’t care what number he’s at,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “As long as keeps scoring the game-winner.”
The goal also upped Stamkos’ league-best total to 56 on the season, as he pulled eight ahead of Pittsburgh Penguins center Evgeni Malkin in the Rocket Richard Trophy race. With four games remaining, the Lightning forward is seeking to become the NHL’s first 60-goal man since Alex Ovechkin in 2007-08.
Antti Miettinen and Kyle Wellwood had goals for Winnipeg, which has now lost six of the past eight. Pavelec made 36 saves.
Tampa Bay outshot Winnipeg 39-28 in the contest, including 21-7 in the third period.
“It’s disappointing,” Jets defenseman Mark Stuart said. “I thought we played okay, but we got into penalty trouble and the momentum shifted.”
The game featured 66 penalty minutes in total on the night, largely in part thanks to a scrum between Malone and Ron Hainsey, and an additional altercation in the final 20 minutes between Jets captain Andrew Ladd and Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman.
“There’s too much emotion in this game,” Winnipeg head coach Claude Noel said. “We played on our heels in the third period, and whether it’s penalties or an icing that we should have played out, this isn’t a good time for me to talk about anything tonight.”
Wellwood’s 18th of the year snapped a 1-1 tie at 9:28 of the second period to pull Winnipeg ahead and give the Jets their first lead of the game. The goal came just 3:08 after Miettinen drew Winnipeg even by beating Caron off a centering pass from Evander Kane behind the net.
“We were able to battle back from a deficit and it shows what this team is made of,” Jets right wing Chris Thorburn said. “But then we gave up a lead late in the game and it seemed to give them the boost they needed.”
The Lightning opened the scoring late in the first when Tom Pyatt chipped the puck ahead into the offensive zone, where Malone gathered it, flipped a pass to himself, and out-muscled a defender before skating in against Pavelec and deking the Jets goaltender for a 1-0 lead.
His second of the night then tied it 2-2 after he swatted a rebound past Pavelec from the slot while on the power play. The goal was Malone’s fifth in his past two games following his fourth career hat trick two nights ago at New Jersey. He now has nine points in his past six games.
“He’s worked really hard taking care of his legs,” Boucher said of Malone. “He’s got a heavy body to carry, but when he gets his legs going, he’s a force.”
Caron, despite making just his first NHL start since Nov. 10, 2006, looked sharp throughout the night.
He made a strong glove save on an in-close shot by Hainsey during the first period and denied Bryan Little from point-blank range late in the game to keep Winnipeg at bay and force overtime.
Tampa Bay wraps up the home portion of the schedule Monday night against the division-rival Capitals before concluding the regular season with a three-game road trip through Canada.