RALEIGH, N.C. — Coach Guy Boucher has said his team is in "survival time."
There could be no better example of its fight than Tampa Bay's 4-3 come-from-behind overtime win over the Hurricanes on Saturday night at the RBC Center.
The Lightning (31-28-6), playing on back-to-back nights and arriving in Raleigh at 3 a.m. Saturday due to a plane mechanical delay, overcame a two-goal deficit for a second consecutive overtime win. In doing so, Tampa Bay continued its improbable climb to a playoff spot. It is within two points of the final spot in the Eastern Conference.
"These guys are doing the impossible," Boucher said. "No matter how we do it, it doesn't make a difference (how they do it)."
The Lightning did it in unlikely fashion Saturday. As perplexingly poor as Tampa Bay has been with the man advantage on the road for most of the season, it won Saturday on the strength of two power-play goals.
Teddy Purcell tied the score at 3 on a one-timer with four seconds left in a two-minute five-on-three power play in the third.
"You have the full two minutes," Purcell said. "So a goal in the first 10 seconds is just as good as a goal in the last 10."
In overtime, Purcell found Stamkos backdoor for a snap shot, Stamkos' league-leading 47th goal. Stamkos also scored in the second to pull the Lightning within 3-2.
"That was a big character win for us," Stamkos said. "We never give up."
Marty St. Louis, who logged more than 27 minutes for the second consecutive game, said it was Stamkos' first goal —with two minutes left in the second — that gave the team some life after falling behind 3-1. Stamkos, on an end-to-end-rush, sent a wrist shot past goalie Cam Ward.
"That was a big one," St. Louis said.
But the biggest goals came later from Purcell, who extended his points streak to nine games (six goals, 13 assists), and Stamkos, who said the Lightning got some breaks getting the late power plays. Hurricanes forward Brandon Sutter was called for roughing in overtime after running into goalie Mathieu Garon, who was outside the crease.
In overtime, Purcell patiently carried the puck from between the circles and faked a shot before passing to Stamkos near the left post.
"An unbelievable pass," Stamkos said.
With contributions from many, including Tim Wallace's first NHL goal and Garon's 25 saves, Tampa Bay has worked its way back into the playoff conversation after falling 10 points out of the eighth spot.
"These guys are competitive; they're warriors," Boucher said. "And they want the end of their season to mean something. And we always say, 'The shame is not in losing; the shame is in not fighting.' "
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Wallace 1 (Shannon), 5:58. Penalties—Malone, TB (hooking), 19:06.
Second Period—2, Carolina, Stewart 8 (E.Staal, Spacek), 5:23. 3, Carolina, Jokinen 10, 15:02. 4, Carolina, Stewart 9 (E.Staal, Tlusty), 16:18. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 46, 18:00. Penalties—Commodore, TB (tripping), 1:01.
Third Period—6, Tampa Bay, Purcell 19 (St. Louis, Malone), 7:24 (pp). Penalties—Tlusty, Car (tripping), 3:15; LaRose, Car (hooking), 5:28; E.Staal, Car (slashing), 5:28.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 47 (Purcell), 2:41 (pp). Penalties—Bra.Sutter, Car (roughing), 1:05. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-7-6-2—23. Carolina 8-8-9-3—28. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 4; Carolina 0 of 2. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Garon 23-16-4 (28 shots-25 saves). Carolina, Ward 22-19-11 (23-19). A—17,116 (18,680). T—2:27.