TAMPA – Tampa Bay winger Steven Stamkos was the only skater to find the back of the net in the shootout Sunday night and backup goalie Brian Elliott made two outstanding saves as the Tampa Bay Lightning survived a late Minnesota rush to take a 5-4 shootout win push their record to 8-1-2 in their last 11 games.
Elliott atoned for two late Minnesota goals with the 6-on-5 advantage as he stopped three pucks in the overtime shootout which gave the Lightning the win on the second night of a back-to-back which saw them lose 5-3 to New Jersey on Saturday.
“You are eventually going to blow a lead,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “Our record for a number of years now has been good in that regard. You have the two 6-on-5 goals and poor ‘Pally’ (Ondrej Palat) had a chance and I think every body in the building is ‘Oh No!’ The breaks went the other team’s way.”
Cooper was referring to Palat’s shot from behind the left circle which was off a breakaway on the shift before and it bounced off the left goal post. He had a Minnesota defender ensuing fast and may have rushed the potential score which would have put the game out of reach.
“We had a chance to put that away,” said Cooper. “It was great that the guys pulled that out. You don’t want to give points to another team, but if you give one to a Western Conference team, you are not in bad shape.”
The Lightning injured list continued to grow as Brayden Point joined Nikita Kucherov and Erik Cernak as Point was tripped in Saturday’s game by New Jersey’s Ryan Graves as he fell over in pain after crashing into the boards. Point was given a penalty shot and stayed in the game.
With this, Cooper had to juggle lineups as he moved Steven Stamkos to the center position on the first line and then move Anthony Cirelli back into a second line center position. Cooper’s move worked as Cirelli scored as he tapped in one-timer from Victor Hedman for a power play goal from the top of the left circle at 1:06 for a 1-0 lead.
It was Tampa Bay’s eight power play goal in the last ten games and four straight at home.
Cirelli also showed excellent stick-handling at the net when he put the Lightning up 3-2. He had the puck on the left side of the net and Minnesota’s Dmitry Kulikov got a blade on the puck, but Cirelli recovered for his sixth goal of the season and second of the afternoon.
“Pointer and Kuch are two of the best power play guys in the league, and we are trying to find different guys,” said Cirelli. “Once you practice a little more, everyone has to step their game up a little bit.”
In Command, but …
The Lightning seemed to be cruising late with a 4-2 lead late in the third period and the Minnesota coach Dean Evason pulled goalie Kaapo Kahkonen with over four minutes to play as he wanted to send six attackers at Elliott, who was only in for his third start behind Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The decision paid off as Kevin Fiala cut the lead to 4-3 at 17:12 in the third period when he fired a one timer from behind the right circle. The shot hit off the stick of Lightning skater Pierre Edouard-Bellemare to cut the lead to 4-3.
Then Joe Erikkson Ek scored at the left crease to tie the game at 4-4 at 19:31.
“We do have the urgency,” said Minnesota coach Dean Evason. “We just don’t seem to be able to get up and maybe at the end, we simplify it a little more. We get pucks at the top and control the puck and get it to the net. Sometimes, we try to do too much.”
It was the second time that the Wild came from two down on the evening as Marcus Foligno scored at 14:40 in the first and then Brandon Duheeim tied it at 2-2 at 3:56 in the second.
“We had control of the game,” said Evason. “We were like ‘Okay we are playing the Stanley Cup champs and controlled the game.’ We learned a lot from the best team in the league last night (Florida) and this group tonight, so we can learn a lot moving forward.”
Tampa Bay came into the game 0-3-1 vs. the Wild in the last four games and picked up their first win over Minnesota since 2018-19.