WINNIPEG — When Jets forward Nikolaj Ehlers cruised in for a breakaway in the final seconds of regulation with the score tied Friday, it appeared the Lightning was headed for heartbreak.
"The game actually turned into slow motion, at least for me," coach Jon Cooper said.
"Oh my God," defenseman Victor Hedman said.
But Ehler's shot clanked off the right post, sending the game to overtime and giving the Lightning life. And it took advantage.
Moments after goalie Ben Bishop thwarted a Bryan Little breakaway, Ondrej Palat finished off a 3-on-1 rush to lift the Lightning to a 4-3 victory at the MTS Center.
"The game actually turned out pretty much the way it should have," Cooper said. "It should have went to overtime and someone was going to get the other (point)."
The Lightning (5-2-1) has taken three of four possible points so far on this "measuring stick" road trip through the Central Division.
Though it hasn't been pretty — Tampa Bay blew three one-goal leads in each of the first two games — the Lightning has found a way to win, giving it a boost heading to Chicago for a Stanley Cup final rematch tonight.
"I think (tonight is) going to be a lot of fun," said Hedman, who had three assists against the Jets. "We're going to have a lot of energy for that one."
Tampa Bay will need a better start. It was fortunate to be tied 1-1 after Friday's first period, when the Jets took control.
"They were all over us," Palat said. "We were a little soft. That can't happen."
But the Lightning fourth line of Cedric Paquette, Vladislav Namestnikov and Erik Condra provided a spark, setting the tone in the second period.
"Unreal," Palat said. "They were our best line."
Said Cooper: "They were outstanding."
Paquette, who had a monster game, scored to give Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead. But the Jets tied it midway through the period after defensemen Anton Stralman and Coburn both went for wing Adam Lowry on an odd-man rush, leaving wing Drew Stafford open to score.
But before Stafford's goal could be announced, Vladislav Namestnikov scored for a 3-2 lead, pouncing on a rebound in front, Paquette having set a great screen. It was Namestnikov's third goal in his past four games.
"The biggest goal of the game," Cooper said.
The Jets tied the score again early in the third on an uncharacteristic mistake by Bishop. With the Lightning on a power play, Bishop — typically a great puck-handler — coughed up the puck behind his net, and Blake Wheeler beat him with a wraparound.
The talk on the Lightning bench was to pick up Bishop, who was making his eighth straight start. And with Palat's overtime goal, the Lightning certainly did, also giving Bishop his 100th career NHL win.
"Bish has bailed us out so many times," Cooper said. "It was about time we bailed him out.
"And that's what we did."
Contact Joe Smith at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Coburn 1 (Johnson), 12:17. 2, Winnipeg, Ehlers 2 (Scheifele, Perreault), 16:28. Penalties—Stafford, Wpg (high-sticking), :44; Paquette, TB (roughing), 20:00; Little, Wpg (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Paquette 1 (Condra, Hedman), 7:22. 4, Winnipeg, Stafford 3 (Lowry, Burmistrov), 10:58. 5, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 3 (Paquette, Hedman), 11:19. Penalties—Coburn, TB (tripping), 3:12.
Third Period—6, Winnipeg, Wheeler 4, 1:17 (sh). Penalties—Enstrom, Wpg (holding stick), :40; Hedman, TB (slashing), 12:31; Perreault, Wpg (slashing), 12:31.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Palat 2 (Stamkos, Hedman), :36. Penalties—None.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 6-16-7-2—31. Winnipeg 11-8-16-1—36. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 2; Winnipeg 0 of 1. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 5-2-1 (36 shots-33 saves). Winnipeg, Pavelec 2-2-1 (31-27). A—15,294 (15,016). T—2:31. Referees—Brad Meier, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Scott Cherrey, Mike Cvik.
Lightning at Blackhawks
When/where: 8:30; United Center, Chicago
TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 970-AM
Key stats: The defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks (4-3) are off to a slow start but are 3-1 at home. … They are without top defenseman Duncan Keith, sidelined 4-6 weeks after knee surgery. … The Lightning went 1-0-1 against the Blackhawks during the regular season last year and lost to them in six games in the Stanley Cup final, giving it motivation in the rematch. "You definitely want to prove something," C Tyler Johnson said. "But at the same time, it's a completely new season, different standings. It's regular season compared to playoffs. You definitely want to have your 'A' game … also because they're one of the top teams in the league."
Joe Smith, Times staff writer