TAMPA — Lightning goaltender Mike McKenna said all the right things Tuesday night.
Team victories are more important than personal agendas, and there was no extra satisfaction besting Steve Mason in a 2-1 overtime victory over the Blue Jackets at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The fact is, though, Tampa Bay's rookie outplayed the goalie many believe will be rookie of the year.
"Without Mac, I'm not sitting here talking to you," Lightning right wing Marty St. Louis said. "He's the reason we won the game."
McKenna made 33 saves while his teammates were outshot 34-17, including 9-2 in the first period and 16-7 in the third.
But Mason could not handle Ryan Malone's tip-in that tied the score with 9:05 left in the third period on Tampa Bay's only power play of the game. St. Louis' 28th goal with 1:56 left in the extra period was the winner, and gave him six goals and six assists in a nine-game points streak.
Steven Stamkos, with two assists, has eight goals and 15 points in 13 games. And the power play is 10-for 29 in seven.
Even so, the victory was Tampa Bay's first at home in seven games. And Montreal's win officially eliminated the Lightning (24-33-16) from playoff contention.
The Canadiens, with the East's final playoff spot, have 83 points. With nine games left, the best Tampa Bay can do is 82.
"I've moved on," St. Louis said. "I knew where we were three weeks ago. We're just trying to finish strong."
McKenna did not have to be spectacular. But he always was square to the puck, most notably when he stopped R.J. Umberger on a first-period two-on-one, and Columbus' only goal came 4:21 into the third when Jan Hejda's shot deflected off Lightning defenseman Matt Smaby.
On the other end, Mason, with a league-high nine shutouts, must have been dozing as the Blue Jackets' defense, which St. Louis said reminded him of the Devils', held Tampa Bay in check.
"They're tough," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "They're as good as anyone back-pressuring the puck. You think you have stuff, and guys are coming behind you. That's the way teams should play. They don't take anything for granted."
"He has a lot of support," McKenna said of Mason. "That's not to take anything away from him, but he lives in a pretty easy environment. For us to come in and beat a club that has played so well defensively is big for us."
And for McKenna?
"I wouldn't say it's a vengeful thing," he said. "But it's a lot more fun to do this than sulking in the locker room afterward."
Damian Cristodero can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—None. Penalties—Petiot, TB (slashing), 10:31.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Melichar, TB (interference), 13:22; Koci, TB (roughing), 17:22.
Third Period—1, Columbus, Hejda 3 (Williams), 4:21. 2, Tampa Bay, Malone 25 (Lashoff, Stamkos), 10:55 (pp). Penalties—Hejda, Clm (holding stick), 9:56.
Overtime—3, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 28 (Stamkos, Petiot), 3:04. Penalties—None. Shots—Columbus 9-8-16-1—34. Tampa Bay 2-5-7-3—17. Power plays—Columbus 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 1 of 1. Goalies—Columbus, Mason 30-17-4 (17 shots-15 saves). Tampa Bay, McKenna 4-4-1 (34-33). A—14,454 (19,758). T—2:20. Referees—Bill McCreary, Ian Walsh. Linesmen—Michel Cormier, Darren Gibbs.