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Heralded Stamkos scores shootout winner for Lightning

PITTSBURGH — Steven Stamkos' Lightning debut was nothing like he wanted and everything.

The No. 1 draft choice made a terrible giveaway Saturday night that led to Sidney Crosby's unassisted short-handed goal with 2:53 left in the third period that gave the Penguins the lead. But Stamkos also scored the winning shootout goal that gave Tampa Bay a 5-4 victory at Mellon Arena in its preseason opener.

"It was a lesson and a lesson he'll remember forever," coach Barry Melrose said. "I'm glad he redeemed himself."

It is a victory about which the Lightning should feel good.

Tampa Bay's lineup was full of youngsters. Pittsburgh's was full of players that helped it to last season's East title. The Lightning could have folded after it fell behind 51 seconds into the game on Jordan Staal's goal, and eight minutes in, it had been outshot 6-0.

But the Lightning outshot Pittsburgh 30-24 the rest of the way.

Brandon Bochenski had three points, with two goals, including one with 1:19 left in the third that tied the score 4-4. Jussi Jokinen had two assists and a shootout goal, and goaltender Karri Ramo had 26 saves and two in the shootout, though on one he was helped by the post.

D Janne Niskala had a goal and an assist. F Jason Ward was a grinder, and C Wyatt Smith added a goal.

Add LW David Koci's brawl with Eric Godard, not to mention his first-period check that knocked Sergei Gonchar from the game, and Zenon Konopka's set-to with Ryan Stone, and it was a good all-around effort.

But it was Stamkos who was most watched. He played 21:41, was minus-1, had two shots and won 10 of 18 faceoffs. He also made two quality passes that linemates Ryan Craig and Michel Ouellet failed to convert.

"That was not the time to do that," Stamkos said of the drop pass in the offensive zone that Crosby picked off. "But you learn from your mistakes. I was just trying to be a little creative, but that wasn't the time or place."

MELROSE'S PLACE: It made sense Stamkos had butterflies. But how about coach Barry Melrose, behind the bench for the first time since April 1995, when he was canned by the Kings?

"I'm excited," the former ESPN analyst said before the game. "It's great being on the ice again, watching the other team skate and not to talk about it on TV."

Melrose broke the usual coaching practice of watching early exhibitions from the press box.

"I think it's necessary for me to be down there. I love the bench. … It's a real exciting place."

ICEFEST TODAY: It begins at 10 a.m. on the Chrysler/Jeep Plaza at the St. Pete Times Forum in Tampa. Practice is at 11 a.m. Players will sign autographs after split-squad workouts. Parking is free in the VIP West lot.

ODDS AND ENDS: Jokinen played center as an experiment, Melrose said. "I don't think he's had the puck enough in training camp. I haven't seen that offensive flair out of him." … Craig, out most of last season with back and knee problems, played his first game since Nov. 24. ... Roster cuts are today. … John Tortorella, fired in June, was listed on the official NHL game roster as the Lightning's coach.

Heralded Stamkos scores shootout winner for Lightning 09/20/08 [Last modified: Sunday, September 21, 2008 6:25pm]

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