TAMPA — After two lackluster periods Thursday night, the Lightning entered the third with a simple message.
"We need to win one period to advance," wing Ryan Callahan said.
Turns out, Tampa Bay only needed to win one play.
Callahan won a pivotal loose puck and knocked it to wing Alex Killorn, who scored the game's only goal with 1:43 left to send the Lightning into the second round of the playoffs.
"Just so happy I don't have to get on a plane (today)," Killorn said.
The play began when Callahan chipped the puck behind the net. As he rushed from the left side, Callahan noticed that Detroit goalie Petr Mrazek didn't seem fully prepared as he moved to clear it. He also knew that, after 18 minutes of action, the ice was beat up, so he charged Mrazek.
"I see him coming out with it," Callahan said. "I just want to pressure him as hard as I can."
When Killorn started to see the upcoming pressure, he did what a power forward does; the 6-foot-2, 189-pound Killorn darted toward the goal, just in case Callahan came away with the puck.
"I was just trying to gain position, go to the net, knowing that if Callahan could get it to me, I could probably put it in," Killorn said.
Callahan's presence combined with the worn ice were enough to slow the puck down as Mrazek tried to send it away. And Killorn's quick jump was enough for him to get position inside Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall in front of the Red Wings' goal.
"You have to go to the net with those type of plays," Killorn said. "Me going to the net opened that up."
And Callahan's grit is what sealed it. Callahan stole the puck before Mrazek's pass could slide to Detroit defenseman Jonathan Ericsson. Callahan then turned and fired it to Killorn, who is becoming an unsung hero overshadowed by Tyler Johnson and Nikita Kucherov.
"Killorn is not talked about as much," coach Jon Cooper said, "but if you're looking for a third-period goal, Alex Killorn scores it."
Killorn finished it off Thursday by backhanding the redirection into the back of the net for his third goal of the series and 13th postseason goal of his career.
Killorn said the tight game came down to one fortunate bounce at the end, but that description doesn't credit the thought and skill behind the series-clinching moment.
"If Cally's not in there and on it, we don't make that play," Cooper said. "And Killer goes in front of the net. It's bang-bang, and it's in."
And Tampa Bay is on to the next round.