TAMPA — Throughout his career, Marty St. Louis has certainly scored bigger goals than his overtime winner Thursday night.
But in the scope of this season, with the Lightning having lost three of four, getting whipped by the Rangers on Tuesday then ripped by its coaches the following day, Tampa Bay was in big need of a lift.
So when St. Louis' one-timer found the net with 10 seconds left in overtime, it capped a much-needed 3-2 come-from-behind win over the Maple Leafs before an announced 13,691 at the St. Pete Times Forum. With the victory, Tampa Bay (20-20-10) remains four points out of the final playoff spot with four teams in between.
"Those are the points you have to get," captain Vinny Lecavalier said. "You look at teams that are winning all around us, so we need every point we can get."
Coach Rick Tocchet, though, wouldn't label it a make-or-break game.
"It's not devastation, but it's not Lord of the Rings either," he said. "Confidence-wise, for our team, we really needed this."
Defenseman Matt Walker set the tone with two first-period fights, knocking former Lightning product Jay Rosehill to the ground with a vicious right hand in one of his bouts.
Walker "supplied the energy for our team," Tocchet said.
Goalie Antero Niittymaki, who was pulled in two of his past three starts, bounced back with a solid performance. He didn't face a ton of shots (24) but thwarted several quality chances early and in overtime made a great save on an Ian White shot from the circle.
"That could have been it right there," Tocchet said. "A hell of a save."
And the power play, which failed on a five-on-three in the first period, came up big in crunch time. Trailing by a goal with four minutes left, St. Louis said the team showed composure and patiently waited for a chance before Ryan Malone put in a rebound. And when the Leafs were called for too many men on the ice with less than a minute left in overtime, St. Louis delivered with a shot that fooled Jonas Gustavsson.
"It was a little bit of a knuckle puck," St. Louis said.
Said Malone: "A perfect shot."
At the perfect time.
Though it was a big win, what's important is how the Lightning, which has struggled with consistency, follows it up.
"We have to grab momentum as a team right now," St. Louis said. "And hopefully, this win is momentum for us to keep going."
First Period—None. Penalties—Primeau, Tor (hooking), :56; Rosehill, Tor, major (fighting), 4:15; Walker, TB, major (fighting), 4:15; Mayers, Tor (slashing), 13:56; Orr, Tor, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 13:56; Walker, TB, major (fighting), 13:56; Veilleux, TB (hooking), 17:00; Szczechura, TB (hooking), 19:25.
Second Period—1, Toronto, White 9 (Kessel, Gunnarsson), 7:05 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 26 (Lecavalier, K.Foster), 11:46. Penalties—Meszaros, TB (cross-checking), 5:42; Kaberle, Tor (hooking), 9:41.
Third Period—3, Toronto, Stajan 15 (Hagman, Kulemin), 9:08 (pp). 4, Tampa Bay, Malone 21 (Lecavalier, Stamkos), 16:11 (pp). Penalties—Ohlund, TB (holding), :52; Kulemin, Tor (holding stick), 6:37; Smaby, TB (hooking), 6:37; Stamkos, TB (high-sticking), 8:12; Stamkos, TB (high-sticking), 9:21; Primeau, Tor (roughing), 14:30; Downie, TB (slashing), 14:30; Ponikarovsky, Tor (boarding), 15:44; Ponikarovsky, Tor (unsportsmanlike conduct), 16:11.
Overtime—5, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 13 (Stamkos, Lecavalier), 4:50 (pp). Penalties—Toronto bench, served by Blake (too many men), 4:16. Shots on Goal—Toronto 4-8-7-3—22. Tampa Bay 7-7-15-3—32. Power-play opportunities—Toronto 2 of 6; Tampa Bay 2 of 7. Goalies—Toronto, Gustavsson 9-10-8 (32 shots-29 saves). Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 10-9-4 (22-20). A—13,691 (19,758).