TAMPA — It's pretty rare for a team to hold a team meeting after a win.
But the Lightning's 6-5 shootout victory over the last-place Jets on Thursday was no ordinary win. It was nearly a disturbing and devastating collapse. Tampa Bay blew a three-goal, third-period lead on four unanswered Jets goals, and needed a Nikita Kucherov goal with five minutes left to force overtime and Steven Stamkos' shootout winner in the fifth round to salvage two points it nearly gave away.
Stamkos said players need to take accountability, especially considering the Lightning is barely holding on to the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
"As a team collectively, we can't look ourselves in the mirror and be happy with that effort. It's just unacceptable," Stamkos said. "We've harped so much during this slide about playing better defensively, keeping the puck out of our net. Two separate three-goal leads, one in the third period on home ice — I don't want to say it's embarrassing, but it almost is. That can't happen, especially in this time of year and the position we're in."
If there was ever a must-win game in February, this was it for the Lightning (31-22-4), which had lost four of its previous five and has six of its next seven on the road. Kucherov's tying goal, which came 24 seconds after Winnipeg took a 5-4 lead in the third after trailing 4-1, might end up being a season-saver.
"(We) most likely should have lost the game," defenseman Anton Stralman said. "Sure, we got the points, and that's what we need. But effort like this is not going to get us to the playoffs anyways."
The Lightning gave up four goals or more for the fourth time in the past six games. But this game could have been a lot worse had it not been for some stellar stops by goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made 36 in regulation and overtime, and four in the shootout. Among the Jets' four goals in an eight-minute stretch of the third, one was on a power play, one was shorthanded and one was a Lightning own goal by Ondrej Palat.
Meanwhile, the Lightning's power play went 0-for-5 with just five shots, even with two minutes of 5-on-3.
"It wasn't our team game that let us down, it was our special teams that let us down in the end," coach Jon Cooper said. "That, in essence, changed the game."
This game got really testy after Stralman's hit on Jets center Bryan Little in the second. Little skated toward the Lightning blue line but stumbled with his head down. Stralman made impact with his shoulder. The Jets were mad, and coach Paul Maurice eventually got ejected.
"As a d-man, you know (Little is) in a vulnerable spot," Jets wings Andrew Ladd said. "Do you need to take his head off? I don't think so. … Hopefully the league takes a look at it and takes care of it."
Said Jets wing Blake Wheeler: "That (ticks) you off."
Little was getting neck X-rays, Maurice said.
Cooper called it a clean hit.
Said Stralman, "I don't play the game to try to hurt anybody. He lost his balance, and I was in his way. Not much I can do to really pull out of that one."
The Lightning is lucky it pulled out a win Thursday.
|Lightning wins shootout 6-5|
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Hedman 6 (Brown), 15:38. 2, Tampa Bay, Marchessault 7 (Killorn), 17:52. 3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 23 (Callahan, Sustr), 19:39. Penalties—Sustr, TB (holding), 9:09.
Second Period—4, Winnipeg, Myers 6 (Peluso, Lowry), 13:45. Penalties—Perreault, Wpg (interference), 1:56; Koekkoek, TB (hooking), 5:07; Wheeler, Wpg, served by Stafford, double minor (roughing), 17:04; Winnipeg bench, served by Ehlers (bench), 17:04; Stralman, TB (roughing), 17:04.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Killorn 10 (Callahan), 2:00. 6, Winnipeg, Scheifele 13 (Trouba), 6:01 (pp). 7, Winnipeg, Ladd 14 (Armia), 7:33 (sh). 8, Winnipeg, Ladd 15 (Scheifele), 12:44. 9, Winnipeg, Perreault 9 (Wheeler, Byfuglien), 14:40 (pp). 10, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 24, 15:04. Penalties—Brown, TB (high-sticking), 4:07; Peluso, Wpg (boarding), 6:32; Ladd, Wpg, major (fighting), 14:11; Scheifele, Wpg (roughing), 14:11; Brown, TB, minor-major (roughing, fighting), 14:11; Paquette, TB (roughing), 14:11; Trouba, Wpg (delay of game), 19:14.
Shootout—Winnipeg 1 (Wheeler NG, Ladd G, Scheifele NG, Stafford NG, Ehlers NG), Tampa Bay 2 (Callahan G, Kucherov NG, Filppula NG, Palat NG, Stamkos G). Shots on Goal—Winnipeg 13-9-15-4—41. Tampa Bay 8-8-8-2—26. Power-play opportunities—Winnipeg 2 of 4; Tampa Bay 0 of 5. Goalies—Winnipeg, Pavelec 6-7-2 (26 shots-21 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 9-5-0 (41-36).