TAMPA — The celebration after the Lightning's 4-3 victory over the Wild on Thursday night almost was playoff-caliber.
Players poured over the boards, and the mob scene of hugs and gloved hands pounding heads slowly slid to the St. Pete Times Forums' side boards, where it remained for almost a minute.
Tampa Bay had won a shootout, of all things, its first in five tries this season. But that was just the end point after it had overcome a two-goal, third-period deficit with Ryan Malone's power-play goal with 14.7 seconds left to send the game to overtime.
"That was probably the most hard-fought win of the season," center Steven Stamkos said, "the one that felt the best, for sure."
And given the rest of the game, totally unexpected.
The Lightning, 7-4-5 overall and 5-0-3 at home, was outplayed and mostly outhustled. It was outshot 34-22 and held without a shot for 8:59 of the first period. It lost puck battles and the territory battle, and the forecheck and physical game were just theories.
Maybe it was the four days off between games. Maybe, coach Rick Tocchet said, he has to rethink how he budgets practice time.
Whatever it was, "we just didn't have it," Malone said.
But a turnover by Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak on a three-on-one led to Steve Downie's goal 9:17 into the third period. And Malone tied it on a six-on-four power play with goaltender Antero Niittymaki pulled for an extra skater.
"It shows you you're never out of it if guys keep grinding," Tocchet said. "I know some guys were having tough nights, and some guys really weren't into the game."
Totally into the game: Stamkos, whose team-best 13th goal was the first short-handed of his career and the team's first short-handed of the season. He also assisted on Malone's goal, and Malone returned the favor.
Niittymaki moved to 3-0-2 in his past six games with 31 saves.
As for the shootout, Tampa Bay won 2-0, with Vinny Lecavalier and Stamkos breaking a 0-for-14 drought for shooters. Tocchet switched things up, too, electing to shoot second.
"I think the percentages of teams that go first are, don't quote me, like 75 percent," Tocchet said. "So, whatever that was, I was going the opposite. It was bucking any trend that was possible."
Both players went at the net with speed. Lecavalier scored five-hole on goalie Niklas Backstrom, and Stamkos, who has 10 goals in his past 10 games, on a deke to his forehand.
"Good teams win games they shouldn't, but good teams learn lessons from this," Tocchet said. "That's the key, learning from your mistakes."
|Lightning wins shootout 2-0|
|Lightning wins shootout 2-0|
First Period—1, Minnesota, Pouliot 2 (Sheppard, Schultz), 16:53. Penalties—Hnidy, Min (holding), 19:34.
Second Period—2, Minnesota, Johnsson 2 (Brunette, Koivu), 3:47 (pp). 3, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 13 (Malone), 8:44 (sh). 4, Minnesota, Nolan 4, 11:35. Penalties—Konopka, TB (cross-checking), 3:16; Burns, Min (tripping), 4:45; Tanguay, TB (high-sticking), 6:59; Veilleux, TB (hooking), 15:00.
Third Period—5, Tampa Bay, Downie 2 (Halpern, Ohlund), 9:17. 6, Tampa Bay, Malone 11 (Stamkos, St. Louis), 19:45 (pp). Penalties—St. Louis, TB (hooking), 3:20; Zidlicky, Min (tripping), 9:59; Nolan, Min (roughing), 12:26; Downie, TB (roughing), 12:26; Zidlicky, Min (hooking), 18:42.
Shootout—Minnesota 0 (Koivu NG, Havlat NG), Tampa Bay 2 (Lecavalier G, Stamkos G). Shots on Goal—Minnesota 12-11-7-4—34. Tampa Bay 9-4-9-0—22. Power-play opportunities—Minnesota 1 of 4; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Minnesota, Backstrom 7-8-1 (22 shots-19 saves). Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 5-1-2 (34-31). A—14,530 (19,758).