OTTAWA — Everyone knew it was coming. Mathieu Joseph was so close so many times. Finally, the Lightning rookie landed his first NHL goal on Sunday.
And it was a big one, too, tying the game up early in the third period, as the Lightning beat Ottawa 4-3 in overtime.
Joseph almost scored on Saturday, in front of a huge crew of 68 family members and friends in Montreal. He grew up on Laval, the island separated from Montreal by the Prairies River, less than a 30-minute metro rile from the Bell Centre.
But Canadiens goalie Carey Price spoiled the moment, making the save on Joseph's breakaway bid.
A smaller group, including his parents, godmother and aunt, made the two-and-a-half-hour drive to Ottawa for Sunday's game and was on hand for Joseph's big moment.
"It's a special moment," coach Jon Cooper said. "You'll always remember that. And understand it was a huge instrumental goal to help us win this game."
Joseph and Anthony Cirelli crashed the net. Cirelli made a move with the puck and then slid it over to Joseph, who sent it back across goalie Craig Anderson to score far side. Joseph's two-fist pump said everything.
He knew to expect the pass from Cirelli. They had talked about it at intermission, after having a few chances in the second period, and were looking for that one.
"You can see on the bench, everyone is excited for him," Steven Stamkos said. "When you're in a stretch like that, you just keep going and eventually one will go in. It's even more special coming in the win."
Joseph wasn't even expected to be in the NHL for game No. 14. His play in training camp and the preseason surprised and impressed coach Jon Cooper and general manager Julien BriseBois, so he made the opening roster. Then he kept playing well, so even when they needed a roster spot, they kept him in the NHL.
He had barely made the scoresheet in the first 13 games, but he had chances and he made good things happen. On multiple occasions in the past few days, Cooper pointed to the team's one goal against Nashville – one Joseph made happen, even though he didn't have an assist. Plus, with as close as he's been on multiple occasions, no one doubted he'd land a goal.
The one he finally did score was a big part of the Lightning's effort to overcome another slow start and come from behind twice.
In Sunday's pregame meeting, the Lightning talked about needing a better start. Then the game started and Ottawa scored the first goal about five minutes in. It was déjà vu all over again.
The Lightning has given up the first goal in each of its last five games. In four of those games, that goal came in the first five minutes (New Jersey had two in that span).
Even after talking about it, Tampa Bay came out flat again.
Bobby Ryan scored a power-play goal 4:55 into the game and Maxime Lajoie added another later in the period to dig the hole a little deeper. The Lightning's vaunted penalty kill (perfect through the first four games) hadn't given up two goals in a game yet this season.
But, as it had two other times in those five games, the Lightning managed to find a way around that start.
Cedric Paquette scored in the opening minute of the second period (again the Lightning's best period of the game) to bring the Lightning within one, then Joseph tied it up. Ottawa took another lead late in the third, but the Lightning still weren't done.
Ryan McDonagh made a skilled takeaway at the blueline that turned into a Brayden Point goal to tie it up with 27 seconds left. Yanni Gourde ended it 14 seconds into overtime, scoring on Point's rebound to grant the Lightning a win that looked like a long shot early on.