TAMPA — Forward Cedric Paquette said Tuesday might have been the first penalty shot of his life.
"Didn't look like it," coach Jon Cooper quipped.
Paquette, the Lightning agitator, looked like a natural with a nifty five-deke display, delivering the biggest goal during a 2-1 victory over Arizona in front of 19,092 at Amalie Arena. The tally came with five seconds left in the second period, during a four-minute Coyotes power play, to make it 2-0.
Considering the Lightning had allowed a shorthanded goal in three consecutive games — one shy of an NHL record — this one was fitting.
"A game-winner, shorthanded penalty shot — probably won't see that too often," Cooper said.
The Lightning (34-22-4) has won four straight, pulling to within three points of first-place Florida in the Atlantic Division.
While captain Steven Stamkos said the team still isn't completely satisfied and is a "work in progress," it was encouraging for Tampa Bay to find ways to win, especially heading into a four-game road trip and the trade deadline looming five days away.
"We're getting back to our roots a little bit," Cooper said.
It started with Stamkos, who has scored a goal in each of his last four games, his longest stretch since the Eastern Conference final. Like the others, this goal came right around the crease, poking in a rebound. "Another tap-in one," he said. "But they all count."
Said Cooper: "Really like the way he's playing right now. We're obviously going to need that moving forward."
The Lightning needed to jump on the struggling Coyotes — who had played the night before in Washington — and did with a great first period, outshooting Arizona 18-8. Tampa Bay got a "little loose" defensively in the second and third, Cooper said, but it gave up two goals or fewer for the third straight game. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was a big part of that with 29 saves.
Paquette's goal, just his fourth of the season, zapped the momentum from the Coyotes and provided the necessary cushion. In the closing seconds of the second, Paquette made a steal at the blueline and went in for a breakaway before getting hooked by Shane Doan. "Thought it was obvious," Paquette said.
Paquette doesn't have a lot of practice at breakaways, saying his last shootout attempt came three years ago with AHL Syracuse. "I don't have many moves," he said. But Paquette had one in his head, thinking it would fool goalie Louis Domingue, who was otherwise stellar with 34 saves.
Paquette approached slowly, deking several times before putting the puck over Domingue's right shoulder. The Lightning bench and sellout crowd erupted for fan favorite Paquette, who had missed 24 games due to injuries this season but has played his best hockey as of late.
"That kid is nothing but heart," Cooper said. "I'm just glad he's reaping some of the benefits of how he's been playing."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 26 (Callahan, Killorn), 12:38. Penalties—Domi, Ari (hooking), 16:49.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Paquette 4 (penalty shot), 19:55 (sh). Penalties—Doan, Ari (holding), 15:07; Palat, TB, double minor (high-sticking), 16:58.
Third Period—3, Arizona, Martinook 8 (Stone, Doan), 4:06. Penalties—Hanzal, Ari (tripping), 1:10; Johnson, TB (embellishment), 1:10. Shots on Goal—Arizona 8-10-12—30. Tampa Bay 18-10-8—36. Power-play opportunities—Arizona 0 of 2; Tampa Bay 0 of 2. Goalies—Arizona, Domingue 12-11-4 (36 shots-34 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 10-5-0 (30-29). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:37. Referees—Jean Hebert, Frederick L'Ecuyer. Linesmen—Devin Berg, Darren Gibbs.