Fresh from decisive road wins in Toronto and Buffalo, the Lightning grabbed some home cooking and faced off against a team also boasting a two game win streak.
It turned out to be business as usual for Tampa Bay, as they ended up in their fifth overtime game of the season, all coming at home in the St. Pete Times Forum.
The game began as a back and forth affair, with neither squad getting much advantage. Despite end to end action, shots were hard to come back early for both teams. At the halfway point of the period, the shot total stood at only four.
Several Ottawa shots did test Mike Smith early, however. Notably a wrist shot from Dean McAmmond which forced Smith to dive across the crease to make the stop.
Shots came easier as the period progressed past the halfway mark, but Smith, sporting the NHL’s best save percentage, and Alex Auld, starting his sixth straight game for the Ottawa Senators, kept the game scoreless. Chris Gratton finished off the period with a strong scoring chance from the slot, off a pass from behind the net. Shots were even at seven apiece as the teams headed for the locker room after the first.
The action continued in the second period with both teams getting plenty of scoring opportunities. Ottawa finally drew first blood at 8:06. With Lightning defenseman Marek Malik in the penalty box for tripping and only seconds remaining in the power play, Smith stopped a blast from the blue line by Senator defenseman Christoph Schubert but Antoine Vermette popped the rebound into the Lightning net.
Tampa Bay got their first man advantage of the contest with 7:51 remaining in the period. Ryan Malone redirected a shot from in front of the net but Auld was in position to make the stop. The Lightning kept the pressure on and Lecavalier broke through for his sixth goal of the season just seconds after the power play expired. His goal from the top of the faceoff circle to the left of Auld was assisted by Lukas Krajicek and Vaclav Prospal and tied the score 1-1 with 5:51 to play in the period. For Krajicek, the assist was his first point as a member of the Lightning team.
The tie score didn’t stand long, however, as Dany Heatley put the Senators in front 39 seconds later when he scored from just outside the faceoff circle. He was assisted by former Lightning player Filip Kuba and Antoine Vermette.
The Lightning came out flying to begin the final stanza, and produced a great opportunity to get the tying goal just over three minutes in when Mark Recchi and Evengy Artyukhin had rapid fire shots from the slot that Auld stopped.
Early in the final period, with Vermette in the penalty box for goaltender interference and Heatley joining him seconds later for interference the Lightning had a two man advantage for 1:48 but were unable to convert.
Tampa Bay kept swarming the Ottawa zone and the tying goal eventually came with 6:12 left on the clock on a shot from the blue line by Matt Carle. The goal was Carle’s first of the season and first as a member of the Lightning. Krajicek and Prospal each got their second assist of the game on the score.
Each squad had scoring chances in the overtime frame, but neither team could get the game winner. Mike Smith continued his amazing play in the Lightning net with a diving save on Ottawa’s Chris Phillips, as he broke in on a two on one with two minutes remaining, and the game progressed to a shootout, the second of the season for the Lightning and the first of the year for Ottawa.
Jussi Jokinen, the second shooter for the Lightning, got the first shootout goal past Auld, but Jason Spezza equaled the equation with a shot that found the net over Smith’s shoulder. Martin St. Louis gave Tampa Bay the advantage with a draw-dropping turnaround goal that confounded Auld.
“I’d seen that move on SportsCenter,” Mike Smith commented afterwards, “but never in person.”
Ottawa wasn’t done, however, as Jarkko Ruutu deked and scored around Smith.
The shootout had gone to seven shooters apiece when Evengy Artyukhin got the call and, in his first NHL shootout, delivered with a low shot that found the five hole. When Ottawa forward McAmmond’s shot went wide of the net, it was finally over.
The victory moved the Lightning’s record to 4-3-3 and gave them four wins in the last five games.
“Tonight was a gut check,” Lightning Coach Barry Melrose said. “Nothing was coming easy but we kept battling and battling and got rewarded.”
The next battles will come on the road, however, as Tampa Bay heads out on a five game road trip before returning to Tampa to face the Detroit Red Wings on November 13th.
Wrist shot -