PITTSBURGH — After an embarrassing collapse in Thursday's 6-5 win over the Jets sparked a team meeting, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said the players needed to start "walking the walk."
They did just that Saturday, with Stamkos walking away with a milestone puck for his 300th goal and his team picking up what had been an elusive first regular-season win at the Penguins' Consol Energy Center, 4-2.
The victory didn't come easily. Tampa Bay was outshot 39-20, and goalie Ben Bishop needed to save the day several times. But in getting its first regular-season win in Pittsburgh since March 30, 2010, at Mellon Arena — Consol Energy Center opened the next season — the Lightning (32-22-4) kept itself in a playoff spot, moving up to third place in the Atlantic Division.
And Tampa Bay showed signs it might be able to continue its climb during this telling stretch of six of seven games on the road.
"It was a start," Stamkos said. "We're on the right path. It's nice to see guys compete and do what's necessary to play well defensively, and you see we're rewarded."
As it did Thursday — when the Lightning blew a 4-1 third-period lead before winning in a shootout — it scored the first three goals, these against Pittsburgh backup Jeff Zatkoff, who started in place of ill Marc-Andre Fleury.
Stamkos tallied No. 300 in his 550th game, becoming the second-youngest active player (26 years, 13 days) to reach the mark, behind the Capitals' Alex Ovechkin (25 years, 200 days).
"It's pretty special," Stamkos said. "First of all, it means you've been around for a while. And secondly, I've been fortunate to play with a lot of good players."
Veteran defenseman Matt Carle notched his first point of the season with an assist on Stamkos' goal, then got his first goal early in the second.
"Forty-one games this year and he didn't have a point, and then he's a fight away from a Gordie Howe hat trick (a goal, an assist and a fight)," coach Jon Cooper said. "Good for him."
Then things got eerie. The Penguins pulled within 3-1 on a shorthanded goal, then 4-2, just like Winnipeg did Thursday. This time, the Lightning held on, partly due to a huge kill of one minute of a 5-on-3 power play late in the second period.
Bishop then delivered in the third, making a stellar sequence of back-to-back saves on Phil Kessel and Chris Kunitz's rebound with 10 minutes to go.
"That's a big-time save," Cooper said. "If that goes 4-3, then who knows. The big boy was there when we needed him in the end."
Despite the lopsided shot totals, the Lightning did play better defensively than it had recently, having allowed four or more goals in four of its previous six games. There weren't as many odd-man rushes or breakdowns, other than Tom Kuhnhackl's shorthanded breakaway goal.
The power play continues to be "fragile," as Cooper put it, going 0-for-5 and allowing a shorthanded goal for the second straight game. But with the trade deadline eight days away, the Lightning began to back up its talk, knowing it will need to do so again Sunday against the surging Hurricanes.
"It's a process," Bishop said. "It's not going to happen overnight. But (Saturday) was a step in the right direction."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Stralman 9 (Namestnikov, Marchessault), 9:08. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 24 (Killorn, Carle), 11:20. Penalties—Crosby, Pit (roughing), 12:36; Brown, TB (cross-checking), 15:07; Letang, Pit (slashing), 15:07; Johnson, TB (roughing), 20:00; Crosby, Pit (roughing), 20:00.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Carle 1, 3:14. 4, Pittsburgh, Kuhnhackl 1, 5:35 (sh). 5, Tampa Bay, Johnson 9 (Palat, Marchessault), 11:53. 6, Pittsburgh, Wilson 2 (Rust, Letang), 16:01. Penalties—Paquette, TB (roughing), 4:44; Daley, Pit, served by Sheary, double minor (roughing), 4:44; Palat, TB (high-sticking), 14:42; Kessel, Pit (hooking), 15:17; Coburn, TB (hooking), 17:25; Sustr, TB (high-sticking), 18:17.
Third Period—None. Penalties—Letang, Pit (illegal stick, unsportsmanlike conduct), 11:54; Kucherov, TB (high-sticking), 14:36. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 9-6-5—20. Pittsburgh 17-9-13—39. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Pittsburgh 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 23-17-3 (39 shots-37 saves). Pittsburgh, Zatkoff 4-6-1 (20-16).