SUNRISE — This is the kind of roll the Lightning is on right now.
Steven Stamkos, who was 5-for-27 in his career in shootouts, was the fourth shooter called by coach Jon Cooper on Sunday against the Panthers.
And the center delivered the winner with a snazzy deke to his forehand that had Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom flailing and gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 victory at the BB&T Center.
"It was nice to see one go in," Stamkos said, "and even nicer to help your team in that situation."
It was the third straight win for Tampa Bay (8-3-0) and fifth in its past six games as it nestled into first place in the Atlantic Division.
"Probably the quietest 8-3 record in the league, and we like it that way," Stamkos said. "We're happy but not satisfied. It's nice to be where we are, but we always want more."
It was not the cleanest win. Tampa Bay gave up a 2-0 first-period lead forged on goals by Marty St. Louis and Stamkos, and a 3-1 lead in the third.
The team also was without Radko Gudas for the final 27:09 after the defenseman, who scored the Lightning's third goal, was ejected for breaking his stick on top of the boards in front of the Panthers bench, a response to being squirted with Gatorade by Florida's Scottie Upshall.
That meant playing with just five defensemen, which, in the second of back-to-back games, contributed to some fatigue.
"We feel pretty fortunate we came away with two points," Cooper said. "We played a pretty solid road game, but it's tough to cough up a two-goal lead in the third."
Especially when Brad Boyes' goal 8:51 into the period that tied the score came after he stripped Ondrej Palat in the Lightning zone.
But Tampa Bay found a way, with Valtteri Filppula also scoring in the shootout and goalie Anders Lindback making three saves (and 29 in regulation and overtime) for the 2-1 shootout win.
"We're getting points, but it's a little disappointing where you have a two-goal lead going into the third period," defenseman Matt Carle said. "I don't think we sat back, but certain little plays here and there make the difference."
And for the better, as well. Stamkos, who had just one goal in 13 previous shootout attempts, flashed some signature skill.
"Quite a move," Cooper said. "When I was growing up, I don't remember those moves, where they come from."
"I'm never going to be a guy who doesn't want to go," Stamkos said of shootouts. "You want to be an impact player. You want to help your team win in those situations."
|Lightning wins shootout 2-1|
First Period—1, TB, St. Louis 7 (Stamkos, Malone), :41. 2, TB, Stamkos 8 (Malone, Carle), 4:35. 3, Fla, Matthias 1 (Winchester, Goc), 13:48. Penalties—Salo, TB (hooking), 1:55; Purcell, TB (tripping), 11:09; Panik, TB (boarding), 19:18.
Second Period—4, TB, Gudas 1 (Panik, Killorn), 9:58 (pp). Penalties—Campbell, Fla (tripping), 2:37; St. Louis, TB (holding), 5:07; Fla bench, served by Huberdeau (too many men), 9:12; Gudas, TB, served by Malone, minor-misconduct-game misconduct (slashing), 12:51; Upshall, Fla (unsportsmanlike conduct), 12:51.
Third Period—5, Fla, Bjugstad 1 (Upshall, Kulikov), 5:39. 6, Fla, Boyes 5, 8:51. Penalties—Kopecky, Fla (high-sticking), 1:29.
Shootout—TB 2 (Filppula G, Hedman NG, Salo NG, Stamkos G), Fla 1 (Huberdeau NG, Barkov NG, Boyes G, Kulikov NG). Shots on Goal—TB 8-8-10-2—28. Fla 10-9-10-3—32. Power-play opportunities—TB 1 of 3; Fla 0 of 4. Goalies—TB, Lindback 1-2-0 (32 shots-29 saves). Fla, Markstrom 1-4-2 (28-25). A—12,336 (17,040).