February-2 is ground hog day but the Tampa Bay Lightning almost saw the shadow of the Buffalo Sabres with less than a minute to play in Saturday evening’s game against the Carolina Hurricanes.
Recently called-up veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron made sure tonight’s lost two- goal third period lead would be just a momentary lapse of focus and not an entire collapse, as his overtime goal allowed the sold out St. Pete Times Forum crowd to go home happy.
The Tampa bay Lightning won their ninth consecutive overtime or shootout game in defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 4-3 on Saturday night in Tampa.
The Lightning came into Saturday’s game on the heels of their worst third period collapse of the season. Tampa Bay lost their composure early in the third period in Tuesday’s game against the Buffalo Sabres and surrendered five goals in the final stanza.
The collapse began when a controversial Buffalo goal was allowed to stand tying the game at three goals each. This, after the Bolts had led by two goals in the second period.
The Bolts would go onto surrender five third period goals and lose the game 7-4 to the Sabres. Bolts head coach Guy Boucher portrayed himself and his team as something from a Lemony Snickets story, chalking the game up to a series of unfortunate events.
The Lightning obviously moved past Tuesday’s fiasco over the last three days as Tampa came out and played 58 minutes of fast paced end-to end solid defensive hockey. However, this is the NHL and a lot can happen in those two minutes and on Saturday night in Tampa, it did.
The game started with a scoreless first period but both teams had plenty of chances to score. The first period saw both teams combine for nine penalties but neither could cash in on the power play.
Dwayne Roloson, who made 31 saves in the game and Cam Ward combined to make 27 first period stops as the Bolts out-shot the Canes 15-12 through the first 20 minutes.
Both Tampa and Carolina rank in the top 15 in the NHL in power play percentage but both teams would combine to go just 2-for-13 on the night, with the Bolts at 1-for-5 in the game.
Tampa would come out and control the play in the second period scoring the first two goals of the game in the middle stanza. Both second period goals were scored just three minutes- and- 15 seconds apart.
Steven Stamkos applied the pressure on the Carolina defense starting the play that led to the first goal. Stamkos forced the play behind the Canes net forcing the Carolina defense to chase the NHL’s leading scorer. The puck eventually found its way onto Martin St. Louis’s stick.
St. Louis’s’ shot was blocked by Ward but he failed to control the rebound. Steve Downie collected the loose puck and backhanded it just under Ward
The Bolts would strike on the power play with their second goal as the Canes Joni Pitkanen sat out for cross checking. Team captain Vincent Lecavalier would score his fourth goal in three games to put the Bolts ahead by two goals.
The Tampa Bay captain had just one goal in 16 games before his current three-game goal streak but he has never stopped working according to head coach Guy Boucher.
“Vinnie was just a horse out there, he carried the load on his shoulders from the beginning of the game until the end of the game,” Boucher said following the game on Lightning Live. “It’s great the points are now coming for him, it’s been like that for him (working hard and not getting points) over a month. He’s been getting all of these chances because he’s been working so hard.”
Following the Bolts second goal the Canes would strike back with a power play goal of their own from their team Captain, Eric Staal. Staal cut the deficit to 2-1 with his 27th of the season with 10:52 left in the second.
The second period would be dominated on the shot board by the Bolts. Tampa outshot the canes by a 3-1 margin, with an 18-5 second period advantage but led by just one goal.
A period of concern for Tamps Bay lately has been the third period. Tampa has been outscored 62-42 in the third period this season but is still 23-2-1 when leading after two periods. In the last three games, the Lightning has been outscored 7-1 and is 1-2-0 over that span.
After controlling the play and outshooting the Canes 33-17 after two periods, the Bolts would once again begin to falter in the third period, allowing the Canes to fire away on Dwayne Roloson but it was the Lightning that would score first in the final period to again take a two-goal lead.
Playing in his 300THNHL game, Sean Bergenheim scored goal number 11 on the season and his third in the last two games. Bergenheim won a draw in the defensive zone getting the puck to rookie standout Dana Tyrell. Tyrell passed the puck back to Bergenheim as he skated the length of the ice beating Cam Ward five hole, just inside the right face-off circle, once again putting Tampa up by two goals.
Carolina, losers in four of their last five did not quit and after out-shooting the Bolts 17-6, they would score twice after pulling their goalie in favor of a sixth attacker late in the third. Goals by rookie sensation Jeff Skinner and Eric Cole sent the game into overtime. Skinner scored with 51.1 seconds remaining before Cole tied it when Joni Pitkanen‘s slap shot from the left point hit his leg and deflected past Dwayne Roloson.
General Manager and Team VP, Steve Yzerman has turned up all of the right cards in acquiring players to help the first place Lightning succeed this season, both in the off-season and during the season. One of those recent in- season acquisitions provided the overtime winner.
Veteran defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron playing for his sixth team in the last eight years scored his first goal in a Lightning uniform to bail his team mates out from another third period collapse. Bergeron who had reconstructive surgery on his right knee last year, signed with the Lightning in January, and joined the team this month after conditioning at AHL Norfolk.
His goal came after joining the play just 1:32 into overtime on a pass from Sean Bergenheim. “Big goals at big moments … I’m happy, but not surprised,” Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher.
Bergeron, a power play specialist playing in four-on-four overtime hockey, also had an assist in the overtime winner against the St. Louis Blues on Super Bowl Sunday.
“I had a chance to create an odd-man rush,” Bergeron said. “Bergie (Bergenheim) did a tremendous job along the boards and to get a rush up the ice. He made a good pass, and I just tried to get a shot on net and it went in.”
When asked about his teams potential for another third period collapse, leading to a loss and what he said to them before the overtime started Boucher said, “We just gotta re-load and re-focus. You could hear the leaders saying the same thing, so we stayed composed, we stayed poised, and that is why we got it. Boucher continued, “That was the mistake we made against Buffalo, we lost our composure.”
The Lightning are now 8-2-0 in their last ten games and will host the Philadelphia Flyers on Tuesday night in the eighth game of their NHL record tying 12 game home stand. The Bolts shut the Flyers 4-0 two weeks ago in the third game of the home stand.
Tampa Bay improved to 13-4-0 in its last 17 games at home and now lead the second place Washington Capitals by five points in the Southeast division. Washington dropped their second home game in a row today, losing 4-1 to the Los Angeles Kings.
The Lightning played without key players tonight due to injury. Forwards Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson, along with defenseman Mike Lundin. Malone is expected to be out for an indefinite period with a lower abdominal injury.