On February 23rd, 2012, Mathieu Garon did not have a good game. Well, he didn’t have a good start to the second period. The Lightning came into the game riding a three-game winning streak. Steven Stamkos was a big part of that, as he scored five goals in those games.
Maybe it was the long flight to Winnipeg, or uncomfortable beds in the hotel, but the team came out, in Coach Boucher’s words, “tight.” Garon gave up two goals in the first and the Jets outshot the Lightning 16-9 in the opening 20 minutes. Things didn’t get better in the second.
Evander Kane put down his stacks of money long enough to score a power play goal 90 seconds into the game. Dustin Byfuglien added another power play goal just over a minute later, and Garon’s night was done. Dwayne Roloson relieved him and was solid the rest of the night, stopping all 16 shots he faced over the remainder of the game.
The Lightning waited until the third period to start their comeback. Stamkos scored at the 11-minute mark, on the power play. The play was set up by Ryan Malone, who took a pass from Teddy Purcell down on the goal line to Ondrej Pavelec's right. With his back to the net, Malone passed it between his legs and connected with Stamkos, who was skating alone into the slot.
Stamkos didn’t miss and put the puck into the back of the net for his 43rd goal of the year.
Eight minutes later, with the Lightning net empty, Tampa Bay did a great job of keeping the puck in the Winnipeg zone. Stamkos picked the puck up out of a scramble along the boards and passed it to Purcell. He surprised everyone by actually shooting the puck and sending it past Pavelec, drawing the Lightning within two with a minute to go.
As the clock was expiring the Lightning had a 6-on-4 advantage thanks to Tanner Glass picking up an extra penalty in a scuffle with Ryan Malone. Stamkos carried the puck into the zone and dropped it to Purcell at the blue line. Purcell saw Martin St. Louis alone on the opposite side of the ice and snapped a pass to him. St. Louis one-timed it from an extreme angle past Pavelec for the third goal of the game.
Unfortunately the Lightning didn’t have enough time to score again and the Jets held on for the 4-3 win, It propelled the Jets into first place in the Southeast Division. They weren’t able to hold onto the division lead, though, and both the Jets and the Lightning missed the playoffs.
As for Stamkos, the loss against Winnipeg was the third time in four games that he had scored three or more points. He would score three or more points nine times that season, on his way to a career best 97 points.