TAMPA — It's never over for the Lightning until it's over.
Even when nothing seems to go right for the Lightning, it can't get the puck bounce it needs and it looks as if it might not walk away with any points, Tampa Bay finds a way.
All it needed Thursday: five minutes and two power plays.
Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat did the rest.
Both scored off the power play within five minutes of each other late in the third period to lift the Lightning to a 3-1 victory over Carolina at Amalie Arena. Point also scored an empty-net goal in the final minute of regulation.
It's yet another come from behind victory for a team that has a mentality that it's never out of it.
"We have confidence in our room if we keep sticking with it," Point said.
The Lightning needed that persistence against the Hurricanes.
Through two and a half periods, it was one of those nights that many NHL teams occasionally have, not named the Lightning. The Lightning needed some puck luck, and it didn't get it for the first two periods. Tampa Bay struggled to get anything going in the offensive zone, mustering only three shots in the first period. The Lightning at one point went 16 minutes between shots in the opening frame.
"We just didn't have our legs," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "It was like we were in quicksand there for a bit."
Carolina did much better in the shot department in the first but no better than the Lightning at scoring goals. Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made sure of that with 12 saves on 12 shots faced.
He also denied the shot that Dougie Hamilton fired at him point-blank early in the second period, but he couldn't slide over in time to stop Justin Williams. He fired the puck past Vasilevskiy to give the Hurricanes a 1-0 lead with 15:26 left in the second period.
The shots came for the Lightning in the second, too. It quadrupled its shot total in the second frame. Still, Tampa Bay couldn't get the one bounce it needed.
Steven Stamkos couldn't fire home a shot that he often hits from the left circle. Adam Erne couldn't score on grinder goals he has at times shown an ability to score. Even Tyler Johnson, who traditionally scores with ease against the Hurricanes, couldn't capitalize on opportunities.
Nothing epitomized things going wrong for the Lightning more than what transpired about halfway through the period as Point broke away.
Off a pass from Mathieu Joseph, Point sped down the ice and scored off his own rebound. The goal tied the game at 1-1.
Or so they thought.
Carolina goaltender Petr Mrazek's didn't stop Point's score. Johnson's skate did, even though his skate was nowhere near the net. His skate remained on the ice before the puck crossed into the zone, nullifying Point's goal upon review.
The offsides, which Point described as pretty clear, did not show well on the video board. Fans boos rattled Amalie Arena for several minutes after the official shared the news with the crowd. Even the first people displayed on the kiss cam during the break decided to boo.
It's just what the Lightning needed.
"I thought that gave us life and our game really picked up after, believe it or not, a non-goal call and an offsides," Cooper said. "We needed something, we needed a bit of a lift, and the crowd helped us out."
The energy didn't pay off immediately on the scoreboard, though. Not until 8:04 remained in the third period.
That's when Palat struck as he tallied his 17th point in 17 games against Carolina.
Another power play opportunity about five minutes later led to Point's game-winning goal, which he scored off a one-timer from Nikita Kucherov with 3:15 left in regulation. It was Point's 12th power play goal of the season.
What looked like the first time the Lightning would be shutout this season turned into an impressive power-play display.
It took two power plays, Palat and Point to remind skeptical hockey fans a valuable lesson.
Never count out the Lightning until the final buzzer blares.
Contact Nick Kelly at [email protected] Follow @_NickKelly.