TAMPA — When exactly did you give up on the Lightning?
Was it when captain Steven Stamkos suffered a knee injury in mid-November, forcing him to miss most of the season? Or when Tampa Bay fell to last place in the Eastern Conference on Feb. 4?
Maybe it was when Tampa Bay became sellers at the March 1 trade deadline, shipping away two-time Vezina Trophy finalist Ben Bishop, plus veterans Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula.
At the very least, you cut bait when the Lightning lost three straight at home, including to the league's second-worst team Arizona.
How about Monday night?
DIRK SHADD | Times
The Lightning remarkably rallied from a three-goal, second-period deficit to beat the best in the Western Conference, 5-4 over the Blackhawks in overtime. It was the third straight come-from-behind win for Tampa Bay, but the first time it has rallied from three goals down to win since Nov. 6, 2011, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
But it was just the latest example in what's been the most resilient regular season in recent memory for the Lightning, which entered Tuesday just one point out of the final wild card spot.
"We've got a left hook here, and an uppercut here, but guys won't go down," coach Jon Cooper said. "You look at the two-month stretch of this resilient group. This group is showing it right now."
If the Lightning does manage to make the playoffs, remember these other comebacks.
The quick strike
Lightning 6, Bruins 3; in Boston (March 23)
Tampa Bay had lost three straight — all at home — coming into this must-win game in Boston, a team it was chasing in the wild-card standings. So it could have been doomsday when the Bruins took three one-goal leads. But, each time, the Lightning responded immediately, scoring the tying goal three times in a combined 163 seconds. Jonathan Drouin's drought-snapping goal was the winner, Nikita Kucherov's hat trick sealing it.
The milestone moment
Lightning 3, Panthers 2 (March 11)
Just two days earlier, Tampa Bay had lost three regular centers (Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov, Cedric Paquette) to lower body injuries. That made this rally even more impressive, erasing a 2-0 deficit to tie it on a shorthanded breakaway by rookie Yanni Gourde, his first NHL goal. Ondrej Palat got the winner with two minutes left, ensuring an important regulation victory, so the Panthers got zero points.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times
Lightning 3, Hurricanes 2 (March 2)
This one is especially important considering Carolina's red-hot run down the stretch to pull within three points of the Lightning (with a game in hand). After a brutal first period, Tampa Bay tied midway through the third on Tyler Johnson's goal, then took the lead with five to go on Nikita Kucherov's 2-on-1 tally. But after Carolina forced overtime with a goal late in regulation, Victor Hedman's second goal 46 seconds into overtime sealed two points.
DIRK SHADD | Times
Lightning 4, Panthers 3 (Oct. 19)
Stamkos has been hurt for most of this season, but he did have a major impact in some key wins. And this one was the most remarkable. After overcoming two-goal deficits in the first two wins of the season, Stamkos' how-did-he-do-that one-timer from the red line tying the game with 5.5 seconds left to force overtime. Tampa Bay would win in a six-round shootout, rookie Brayden Point offering a glimpse of what was to come with his clutch shootout goal.
NOTES: Wing Joel Vermin was reassigned to AHL Syracuse Tuesday, an indication Cedric Paquette (lower body) could be close to returning by Thursday's game against Detroit. GM Steve Yzerman said Vermin's status will be re-evaluated after Wednesday's practice.