Game 78: Winnipeg Jets at Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in overtime before a sellout crowd of 19,204 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night.

The Lightning and Jets came into tonight hoping to stave off elimination from the postseason for just a little bit longer, knowing that only one team, at best, would be able to make that happen. The match-up yielded the closest thing to a playoff game that either team will see this season.

"I think we gave the best show possible to our fans in every possible way. Our goaltender played great. You got a new kid coming in, everybody wanted to see him play. He played great. You got Bugsy Malone just charging through everybody...There was everything tonight." - Lightning head coach Guy Boucher

Ryan Malone opened the scoring with an unassisted (well, if you don't count the nifty flip pass over the defender's head to himself) goal at 15:37 of the first, a lead the Lightning would carry into the first intermission.

The Lightning's Sebastien Caron, making his first NHL start since November 10, 2006, stopped 12 shots in the opening period and would go on to stop 26 of the 28 he would face.

At 6:20 of the second, Antti Miettinen tied it with assists from Evander Kane and Mark Stuart.

Winnipeg took the lead three minutes later when Kyle Wellwood scored with help from Dustin Byfuglien and Tim Stapleton.

The score was 2-1 Winnipeg after two periods.

Ryan Malone continued his hot streak with his second goal of the night (five in the last two games) and his 20th of the season, cashing in on the power play with helpers from Teddy Purcell and Victor Hedman at the 7:25 mark of the third.

Regulation ended with the teams tied at two.

Steven Stamkos needed less than a minute of the overtime period to end the game and stave off elimination, scoring at 0:45 on an assist from Brian Lee. It was the fifth overtime winner for Stamkos this season, a new NHL record.

In spite of the win, a win by the Washington Capitals officially eliminates the Lightning from contention as well as Winnipeg. The Lightning will be in action again on Monday when they host the Capitals in the season's final home game.

Game notes:

  • J.T. Brown played his first professional game tonight, joining Brett Connolly as Lightning players to make their professional debut in the NHL. They join Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Mike Angelidis in making their NHL debuts with the Bolts this season.
  • Nate Thompson returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an upper body injury.
  • Stamkos now has 11 game winning goals this season, tying him with Radim Vrbata of Phoenix for the league lead in that category.
  • The Tampa Bay Lightning honored Alisa Savoretti as a Lightning Community Hero during the first period of tonight's game against the Winnipeg Jets. Savoretti, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to My Hope Chest and the Florida Cancer Specialists Foundation. As a result of tonight's donation, the Lightning Community Heroes program has now reached the $2,000,000 plateau to date.

    Lightning owner Jeff Vinik, along with his wife, Penny, launched the Community Heroes initiative at the beginning of the season to distribute $10 million dollars to deserving grass roots community heroes throughout the Tampa Bay community over the next five years. Throughout each of the Lightning's 41 regular season games, the Lightning honored a Community Hero and also awarded a $50,000 check to a non-profit charity of their choice. Over the course of the season, a total of $2,050,000 will be handed out to worthy community causes. Savoretti has been a community hero and inspiration to hundreds of uninsured women during the past nine years suffering from breast cancer. She herself was diagnosed with cancer when she was 38 years old and had to wait three years for reconstructive surgery. Knowing that she wasn't the only one who suffered with this disease while having no medical insurance, Savoretti started the non-profit organization, My Hope Chest. It is the only non-profit group that funds breast reconstruction for uninsured survivors, regardless of their financial situation. She is determined to change the lives for the uninsured survivors locally and nationally. Savoretti is currently operating her own company with donated office items and is trying to help women regain their self-esteem and dignity after dealing with cancer. For Savoretti, it is an around-the-clock job, but she remains motivated by improving the lives of women who suffer from this deadly disease. While the waitlist continues to grow for women to get help through Savoretti's program, those in line know they will be sacrificing a piece of themselves in exchange for life. Savoretti's intent is to successfully complete a woman's journey by making them feel whole again.