UNIONDALE, N.Y. — So, there was Valtteri Filppula Tuesday night, lurking at the top of the crease well above the fray.
The Lightning center was hoping the puck under the mosh pit of bodies in front of the Islanders net would squirt free. All of a sudden it did, and Filppula made the most of it.
His goal, off a quick backhand with 3.8 seconds left in the third period, tied the score in what would become an improbable 3-2 Tampa Bay shootout victory at Nassau Coliseum.
"I heard his D yelling for the puck, so I was hoping he doesn't see me," Filppula said of New York goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. "With those kinds of goals you need a little bit of luck, too. I was able to get it and shoot it quick."
It was quite a game for Filppula, who had his worst defensive effort of the season. But his goal with 2:53 left in the third cut Tampa Bay's deficit to 2-1 and he joined Nikita Kucherov as successful in the shootout.
It was quite a road trip, too, for the Lightning (20-11-3), which played three games in four nights and finished with two wins after being shut out in the opener at New Jersey.
"You know you look back you don't know if we deserved to win it, but the guys played 60 minutes," goalie Ben Bishop said. "They didn't quit till the end."
Bishop was huge, stopping 32 shots and two of three in the shootout for his 18th win.
But it was Filppula, now with 12 goals, who had the game's best story, going from goat to redeemed.
Already with a season-worst three giveaways, including one in the game's first minutes that led to two Islanders scoring chances, Filppula was the key player in New York's second goal.
Badly beaten to the puck by Michael Grabner, Frans Nielsen's goal on the ensuing two-on-one made the score 2-0 with 9:39 left in the third.
"Personally, it wasn't a great game," Filppula said. "I'm happy I was able to help the team at the end there but I have to play better."
"Defensively, maybe things weren't going his way but he's earned these breaks," coach Jon Cooper said. "Sometimes he's played extremely well and got nothing for it. (Tuesday) it paid off for him."
Nielsen's defensive zone giveaway set up Filppula's first goal on a zippy wrist shot. His second goal was all about being patient while the maelstrom raged in front of him.
"You're trying to be patient and do the right things," Filppula said. "At the same time you're looking at the clock and it's running down."
But not out.
|Lightning wins shootout 2-1|
First—None. Penalties—Gudas, TB (interference), 19:27.
Second—1, N.Y. Islanders, Okposo 11 (Tavares, Nelson), :11 (pp). Penalties—Crombeen, TB, major (fighting), 4:16; Martin, NYI, major (fighting), 4:16; Johnson, TB (holding), 12:56.
Third—2, N.Y. Islanders, Nielsen 11 (Grabner, Bailey), 10:21. 3, Tampa Bay, Filppula 11, 17:07. 4, Tampa Bay, Filppula 12 (Brown, St. Louis), 19:56. Penalties—Clutterbuck, NYI (illegal check to head minor), 3:26.
Shootout—Tampa Bay 2 (Filppula G, Kucherov G), N.Y. Islanders 1 (Vanek NG, Nielsen G, Tavares NG). Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 13-8-14-1—36. N.Y. Islanders 12-11-10-1—34. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 1; N.Y. Islanders 1 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 18-5-2 (34 shots-32 saves). N.Y. Islanders, Nabokov 5-5-5 (36-34). A—13,618 (16,170). T—3:02. Referees—Dan O'Halloran, Gord Dwyer. Linesmen—Steve Barton, Brian Murphy.