As Gourde as it gets for Bolts rookie
TAMPA — It takes all kinds.
The Lightning's back-from-the-grave parade was back at Amalie Arena on Monday night. And as has been recent custom, it went beyond its best players being its best players, a must at this time of year.
Monday, that meant a breakaway goal from center Yanni Gourde (pronounced, "Did that guy just win the game?'') to end a frenzied overtime and punctuate a riveting 5-4 win over the Chicago Blackhawks. The Lightning came from 4-1 down in the second period to pull within a point of Boston for the final wild card.
Yanni Gourde. His second NHL goal.
Sure, why not?
This improbable late charge by the Lightning after it was written off (I did some of the writing) is being underwritten not just by Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman and Jonathan Drouin and Andrei Vasilevskiy and Anton Stralman - but by players to the rescue, household names in only their households.
Monday night, Yanni Gourde's number came up.
His second NHL goal. A winner.
"I've worked very hard to be here, since a long time ago," Gourde said. "I was once at a crossroads of my career. It's very special to be here tonight for this."
The Quebec native is one of the rookies playing a role in this Lightning push. It has been a struggle for the Lightning at times, but that's the 25-year-old Gourde's journey to the NHL, too.
Once upon a time, he was undrafted, despite starring in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. He had ups and a lot of downs in the American Hockey League, and at one point was demoted to the East Coast Hockey League. But he eventually broke through, and the Lightning took notice. Gourde is in his fourth season with the organization, having spent most of his time at AHL Syracuse, where he has displayed a scoring touch.
Monday was his 13th game with the Lightning this season. Gourde plays on the third line with Adam Erme and Joel Vermin.
Who are these guys?
One of them just scored a game-winner, a huge one.
"You have your struggles along the way, but you keep fighting," Gourde said.
"He is the road less traveled, for sure," said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. "It was just a couple of years ago he was playing in the East Coast League. There's a player where a will and a want gets you to where you want to be. He is proving that right now. He plays with energy. He just hounds pucks."
Cooper had enough belief to have Gourde out there in Monday's thrilling three-on-three overtime, back and forth, no let-up, Blackhawks stars all over the ice, some Lightning stars, too.
And Yanni Gourde, who shot and scored with just 35 seconds left in overtime. Less than a week ago, it seemed dead after three consecutive home losses.
"You're getting a left hook here, an uppercut here, but the guys won't go down," Cooper said.
"We're right there," Yanni Gourde said of playoff chances. "You just keep working and working. That's how I got up here."