TAMPA — The Lightning certainly didn't make Tuesday's 6-4 victory over the Oilers easy on itself.
The win wasn't how Tampa Bay drew it up. The Lightning squandered three leads — including a two-goal cushion in the third period — to worst-in-the-Western Conference Edmonton, which had played the night before. It took a wild shorthanded goal by Brian Boyle with eight minutes left for the Lightning to finally take the lead for good.
But Tampa Bay (25-17-4) survived, holding on to extend its winning streak to six games and pull within three points of the first-place Panthers in the Atlantic Division.
And it set up a monster showdown Thursday with the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks, who have won a franchise-record 12 straight.
"We're finding ways to win in situations where, earlier in the season, we may have panicked and lost complete control of the game," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. "But at least we're in situations now that are probably going to happen more times throughout the season, that we respond (to) and stay calm and collected, and find a way to win in the end."
The Lightning will have to play much better Thursday at Amalie Arena to defeat the Blackhawks, whom Tampa Bay players dubbed the best team in the NHL. Tampa Bay is getting its offensive swagger back, matching a season high with six goals (by six players), the sixth straight game in which it has scored three or more. But it needed every one of them, not able to exhale until Alex Killorn put in an empty-netter in the final minute.
"It seemed like almost every time (the Oilers) were coming down, they were scoring," coach Jon Cooper said.
The Lightning, which scored the first goal for the fifth straight game, gave up two one-goal leads in the first period after goals by Nikita Nesterov and Nikita Kucherov, who has 19. Stamkos had a bad turnover on the first one.
Another Edmonton goal came off a bad Lightning line change.
"That should never happen," Cooper said. "Fell asleep on the bench."
"They were pretty much self-inflicted wounds," Stamkos said.
After two second-period goals, by Ondrej Palat and Vladislav Namestnikov, put the Lightning ahead 4-2, the Oilers tied it in the first five minutes of the third. But goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy came up with some big saves late, and the penalty kill shined again, going 4-for-4, including getting Boyle's winning goal.
On Boyle's goal, Oilers goalie Anders Nilsson darted to the right circle to play the puck, which took a fortuitous Tampa Bay bounce back to a streaking Boyle, who flipped it in the open net.
"It worked out pretty good," Boyle said. "(The puck) was rolling on me, and the angle was getting worse and worse. But it found a way in, thank goodness."
Contact Joe Smith at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Nesterov 3 (Killorn, Sustr), 3:57. 2, Edmonton, Kassian 1 (Pakarinen), 5:25. 3, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 19 (Johnson, Killorn), 16:57. 4, Edmonton, Letestu 7 (Nurse), 19:26 (sh). Penalties—Condra, TB (cross-checking), 11:14; Schultz, Edm (holding), 18:15.
Second Period—5, Tampa Bay, Palat 4 (Namestnikov, Stamkos), 6:09. 6, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 10 (Palat, Stamkos), 17:12. Penalties— Kassian, Edm (roughing), 7:31; Johnson, TB (hooking), 7:31; Killorn, TB (roughing), 7:31; Stamkos, TB (tripping), 10:20; Davidson, Edm (hooking), 19:14.
Third Period—7, Edmonton, Draisaitl 11 (Hall, Kassian), 2:10. 8, Edmonton, Pakarinen 4, 4:29. 9, Tampa Bay, Boyle 9 (Coburn, Brown), 7:42 (sh). 10, Tampa Bay, Killorn 8 (Kucherov), 19:33 (en). Penalties—Condra, TB (high-sticking), 6:02. Shots on Goal—Edmonton 11-5-10—26. Tampa Bay 10-11-10—31. Power plays—Edmonton 0 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Edmonton, Nilsson 10-11-2 (30 shots-25 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 7-4-0 (26-22). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:31. Referees—Jean Hebert, Kyle Rehman. Linesmen—David Brisebois, John Grandt.