ATLANTA — Steven Stamkos told himself before Sunday's game with the Thrashers he was going to be involved from the first shift.
The Lightning center knew his performance had dipped the last little while, and it bothered him.
"Get right in there," he said. "Get a hit. Get into the game." Getting a big goal was the by-product. Stamkos' team-high 15th goal 2:56 into overtime gave Tampa Bay a 4-3 win at Philips Arena.
"He was working hard," coach Rick Tocchet said. "He was up and down and getting hit, and he got up. He played a solid game for us."
It punctuated a solid road trip for the Lightning (9-5-7), which finished the cross-country excursion 2-1-1 and with five of a possible eight points.
Marty St. Louis had three assists. Goaltender Antero Niittymaki made 28 saves to continue an improbable stretch in which he is 14-0 against Atlanta and has a 15-game winning streak against the Southeast Division.
An added bonus: Tampa Bay outshot an opponent for the first time in 11 games, 40-31.
That said, a 3-1 third-period lead, built on Ryan Malone's 14th goal and the firsts for Stephane Veilleux and Kurtis Foster, disintegrated in 1:52 on goals by Slava Kozlov and Evander Kane, who tied the score with 2:31 left.
Kozlov's goal was most disturbing. It came off a faceoff in which the puck got loose in the Tampa Bay zone and got past St. Louis. "It went right through me," he said. "Right off the draw; it was a killer."
But as Tocchet said, "A couple of blown assignments doesn't bring the whole group down. I thought we played well." Especially after Saturday's loss to the Hurricanes in which Tocchet said his best players played their worst. "The resilience of the team was nice to see," he said. "You're looking for certain guys to lead the charge."
Such as Malone, who had six shots and a team-best four hits; St. Louis, who played a team-high 26:50, and rookie James Wright, who had three shots in 13:50 and was solid all around.
But Stamkos' game was the most dynamic. His seven shots equaled his total from him previous five games. He had two hits and two takeaways, and played 23:42. "(Sunday) was the first time in a while I felt really good," he said. "I skated well and got into the forecheck."
Stamkos said players knew of Tocchet's criticism after the Carolina game, but it wasn't discussed.
"Everyone knows when they don't play a good game," he said. "Nothing needed to be said."
Except what he told himself.
First Period—None. Penalties—Boulton, Atl (delay of game), 2:57; Kubina, Atl (hooking), 6:50; Tampa Bay bench, served by Downie (too many men), 10:57; Lecavalier, TB (hooking), 19:15.
Second Period—1, Tampa Bay, Veilleux 1 (Konopka, Foster), 5:45. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 14 (St. Louis, Stamkos), 19:36. Penalties—Schubert, Atl (boarding), 2:46; Afinogenov, Atl (interference), 11:06.
Third Period—3, Atlanta, Enstrom 3 (Kozlov, Antropov), 5:29. 4, Tampa Bay, Foster 1 (Tanguay, St. Louis), 9:20 (pp). 5, Atlanta, Kozlov 2 (Antropov), 15:37. 6, Atlanta, Kane 7 (White, Enstrom), 17:29. Penalties—White, Atl (interference), 7:29; Tanguay, TB (cross-checking), 12:18; Downie, TB, double minor (roughing), 19:07; Afinogenov, Atl, double minor (roughing), 19:07.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 15 (St. Louis), 2:56. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 15-9-14-2—40. Atlanta 8-8-15-0—31. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 5; Atlanta 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Niittymaki 6-1-3 (31 shots-28 saves). Atlanta, Pavelec 6-5-3 (40-36). A—13,342