Was it the best game of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning? No, but it might have been the most entertaining. Alex Killorn’s overtime goal with 1:17 left on the clock capped off a 5-4 win for the Lightning that featured a little bit of everything (including Steven Stamkos’ 500th career assist).
There were blown leads and comebacks. Power play goals and shorthanded goals. Reviews and resiliency. The game featured nine goals from nine different players. For Tampa Bay it was Ross Colton, Nick Paul, Steven Stamkos, Ian Cole, and Killorn. For Dallas Mason Marchment, Joe Pavelski, Jason Robertson, an Radek Faksa. The goaltenders might not want to watch the tape tomorrow as Brian Elliott picked up the win with 28 saves on 32 shots while Jake Oettinger, one of the best in the business, was touched up for 5 goals on 38 shots.
The Stars are a solid test for the Lighting since they base a lot of their attack on speed and a strong forecheck, two traits that have caused some issues for the Bolts this season. One way to deal with it is to keep the puck as far away from your net as possible, which is what the Lightning did early in the game. It also helps if you score, which they also did.
Ross Colton (Vlad Namestnikov, Philippe Myers) 1-0 Lightning
There was nothing fancy on that goal, just a face-off win and Vlad Namestnikov who outworked two Stars to get a shot on net. Colton put himself in a good spot for the rebound and beat Oettinger cleanly.
Another test for the Lightning would be the Dallas power play that has been red hot over their last few games, and pretty strong all season long, clicking at a better than 30% rate. Things didn’t go quite as well shorthanded as Mason Marchment tipped home the equalizer.
Mason Marchment (Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz) Power Play, 1-1
Sometimes you just have to tip your hat to the other team. The Lightning had things covered pretty well and Marchment just managed to make a perfect deflection. Good for him.
Overall it was a pretty even period at 5v5. The Lightning had the edge in unblocked shots (13-11), scoring chances (12-7), an expected goals (52.02% xGF%).
The middle frame was fun to watch. Neither team was particularly careful with the puck which led to some open play. While the coaches and goaltenders may not care for it, it was a blast from the fans.
There was a bit of an unfortunate moment for the Lightning early in the period when Ty Dellandrea’s stick managed to clip Elliott in the face. After a brief delay the veteran netminder stayed in the game (and made a couple of saves).
Nick Paul had an empty net goal last game. In this game he added one on the power play. Much like the move by Namestnikov Paul won the battle in front of Oettinger and wristed it off of the goalie’s blocker and into the back of the net. Much like their power play, the Stars penalty kill is in the top three for the league, but the Lightning were able to generate a few chances before Paul converted.
Nick Paul (Corey Perry, Ross Colton) Power Play, 2-1 Lightning
Dallas power play = Dallas goal. Oddly enough, the Lightning thought they had evened things up for a moment when Wyatt Johnston was whistled for a penalty while the Stars were on a power play. However, in the run of play Vlad Namestnikov steamrolled Oettinger to negate the Johnston penalty.
Victor Hedman looked like he was going to sweep a rebound clear of danger, but Joe Pavelski took it off his stick and tucked it past Elliott.
Joe Pavelski (Miro Heiskanen, Jamie Benn) Power Play, 2-2
The Stars took their first lead of the game on their first even strength goal. This time it was Jason Robertson, because he scores every game. It was kind of a busted play as Brayden Point blunted Pavelski’s initial shot, but it left everyone out of position and Robertson was able to beat Elliott.
Jason Robertson (Joe Pavelski, Miro Heiskanen) 3-2 Stars
The lead didn’t last too long as the Lightning tied it up with their own even strength goal. This time it was a man who’s waited a long time for one. The Captain. It wasn’t a Stamkosian blast that got him off of the schneid, it was the wisdom that comes with experience. Stamkos saw a little space behind the defense, posted up, and raised his stock to alert his teammate that he was open. Ian Cole ripped a pass in his direction and Stamkos tipped it past Oettinger.
Steven Stamkos (Ian Cole, Alex Killorn) 3-3
With all of the special teams action, there was only 12:44 of 5v5 time, but play favored Dallas slightly as they had a 10-9 advantage in unblocked shots and a 9-6 lead in scoring chances.
With the score knotted at three, the Lightning engaged in their first meaningful third period in a few games. It took four minutes for a team to find the back of the net and it came from an unlikely source.
Victor Hedman blasted a shot from the point that hit bodies in front of the net. Nick Paul kicked the rebound to... Ian Cole? Yup. the defenseman had pinched down and showed some nice patience and hands to wait for an opening and tuck in past a sprawled out Oettinger for his first goal as a member of the Lightning.
Dallas challenged the play for offside, but a lengthy review confirmed that Alex Killorn was onside as the play entered the zone.
Ian Cole (Nick Paul, Victor Hedman) 4-3 Lightning
The game opened up a bit with the ensuing power play although neither side scored despite a bevy of chances. Nikita Kucherov dinged the post, hooked a shot wide of an open net, and chipped one off the outside of the post in a span of about 5 minutes. Roope Hintz also had glory on his stick only to see the puck betray him.
Dallas tied it up (again) thanks to an absolute gift from Mikhail Sergachev. With the Lightning on the power play, Sergy brought the puck out from behind the net and as he was ready to pass it, the puck rolled off his blade and right to Radek Faska. Faska was in the slot and quickly beat Elliott through the five hole.
Radek Faksa (unassisted) Shorthanded, 4-4
That was disheartening.
On to overtime.
There were chances for both teams - Alex Killorn from point blank not once, but twice. Nick Paul with a sneaky shot off of a blocker. The Stars had a three-on-one, but that one was Hedman and he blocked the pass. Miro Heiskanen had a clean look that Elliott swallowed up.
In the end it was Killorn. On a two-on-one with Stamkos, he elected to shoot and he beat Oettinger cleanly for his fifth career overtime goal. The celebration was vintage Killorn as well.