TORONTO — Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund said he knew who he had lined up for a bone-crunching check:
Phil Kessel, the Maple Leafs' prized free agent in his first game after healing from summer shoulder surgery. But Ohlund, who drove Kessel into the ice with a clean double-punch to the chest, said it wouldn't have mattered who was skating toward him.
"We try to play hard, and sometimes you get the right timing and get those hits," Ohlund said. "It wasn't a big deal."
Oh, but it was, as a catalyst 13:20 into the game, and as a punctuation mark on Tampa Bay's much-needed 2-1 overtime victory Tuesday night at the Air Canada Centre, the team's first win in six road games.
"You're looking for guys like him to make moments where you can change the momentum," coach Rick Tocchet said.
Changing momentum was the story of the game that ended 2:21 into the extra period on Ryan Malone's ninth goal and included Vinny Lecavalier's second and a brilliant 40-save effort by Antero Niittymaki.
Quite a change from the past two games in which Tampa Bay (5-4-4) looked disinterested in gaining one point; so much so that after Monday's 6-2 loss to the Flyers, players held a closed-door meeting.
The message: "We've got to give more," Lecavalier said, "just that little extra desperation."
Tocchet kept up the pressure Tuesday by challenging players, and especially the struggling Lecavalier, to play with more "passion."
"He's the captain of this hockey club, and it's not just him, but he's the main figure on our team," Tocchet said. "We have to get him going. He has to show us he's ready to play."
Playing mostly on a line with Malone and right wing Alex Tanguay, Lecavalier had two hits and six shots, including a goal for a 1-0 lead with 1:26 left in the first period.
"It was a nice step," Tocchet said. "Now we have to build on that. He seemed like he had some jump."
So did the penalty killers who squashed seven of eight shorthanded situations.
So did Niittymaki, who stopped 16 of 17 power-play shots and survived Rickard Wallin's second-period slap shot that knocked off his mask.
So did Malone, who had five hits and swatted the winning goal out of the air past goalie Jonas Gustavsson.
And so did Tanguay, whose pinpoint pass to Malone through two defenders set up the goal that made the Lightning 1-4-1 on the road and Toronto 0-5-1 at home.
"We really met the challenge," Tocchet said. "Guys came to play."
Ohlund took the lead with a game-high 26 minutes, five hits, an assist and a scrum with Matt Stajan after leveling Kessel, who said it was the hardest he has ever been hit in the NHL.
"Clean hit," Kessel said. "He really got me good."
"That's part of the game these days," Ohlund said. "You make a big hit and the other team is going to react."
His own team, as well.
First—None. Penalties—Beauchemin, Tor (tripping), 10:14; Ohlund, TB (roughing), 13:20; Stajan, Tor, served by Kulemin, double minor (roughing), 13:20; Krajicek, TB, minor-major (interference, fighting), 14:40; Hagman, Tor, major (fighting), 14:40; Halpern, TB (hooking), 19:37.
Second—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 2 (Ohlund), 18:34. Penalties—Hedman, TB (tripping), :48; Kessel, Tor (hooking), 1:56; Hedman, TB (hooking), 9:00; Krajicek, TB (interference), 16:22; Walker, TB (tripping), 19:15.
Third—2, Toronto, White 3 (Hagman, Beauchemin), 5:04 (pp). Penalties—Halpern, TB (hooking), 3:28; Kulemin, Tor (tripping), 9:01; Ohlund, TB (boarding), 16:05.
Overtime—3, Tampa Bay, Malone 9 (Tanguay), 2:21. Penalties—None. Shots—Tampa Bay 11-10-9-2—32. Toronto 10-19-9-3—41. Power plays—Tampa Bay 0 of 4; Toronto 1 of 8. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 3-1-1 (41 shots-40 saves). Toronto, Gustavsson 1-2-3 (32-30). A—19,301 (18,819). T—2:40. Referees—Dean Morton, Don Van Massenhoven. Linesmen—Mike Cvik, Ryan Galloway.