TAMPA — Captain Steven Stamkos has fired a countless number of one-timers in his life, and scored 314 goals in his NHL career.
But Tuesday's wild-angled blast to force overtime with 5.5 seconds left was tough for even him to top.
"That was probably one of the better shots of my career," Stamkos said. "It was one of those things where everything executed perfectly."
What Stamkos loved most was the timing. With that goal, the Lightning stole at least a point, then earned two in a wild and controversial 4-3 shootout win over the Atlantic Division rival Panthers. Tampa Bay is 3-0 to start the season. You can argue it won twice Tuesday.
After Stamkos' heroics, Tampa Bay figured it was over after Vincent Trocheck whiffed on Florida's third shootout attempt. The officials waved it off, even before Trocheck collected the puck and put in the second effort. The Lightning started to celebrate and leave the ice.
"We thought it was done," Stamkos said.
But the goal was reviewed and it was ruled that Trocheck kept the "puck in motion towards the goal before his shot attempt." Rule 24.2 says, "once it is shot, the play shall be considered complete."
"It was close," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "After watching it now, it's a toss of the coin. But in the end, it all worked out. There's no controversy."
That's because in the sixth round of the shootout, rookie Brayden Point — in his third NHL game — scored the winner, a wrist shot under goalie James Reimer. Point has a winner before an official NHL goal.
"Pretty cool," he said. "There were nerves for sure."
Not from Cooper, who has seen Point do it plenty of times in practice.
"He's done it his whole career, just not in the NHL," Cooper said.
But it would have never gotten to that point had it not been for Stamkos' rocket shot, which came with the Lightning's net empty.
"There's not many guys in the league that can do that," Cooper said. "And by not many guys, you're counting on one hand. And even then, I don't know if you're getting to the thumb."
Alex Killorn had the best view, standing in front of the net.
"I was shocked he was trying to shoot it," Killorn said. "It was kind of like a golf shot."
Stamkos said the Lightning has yet to play its best consistently, despite its undefeated start. It fell behind 2-0 in each of the first two games before rallying to beat the Red Wings and Devils. And Tuesday, Tampa Bay again had to dig out of an early hole, the Panthers scoring on a shorthanded goal early in the second period.
The Lightning regained the lead with two second-period goals, one by Killorn, his third in as many games, and one by Ondrej Palat, assisted by Stamkos. But this one didn't look good for the Lightning after Michael Matheson put the Panthers (2-0-1) up 3-2 with four minutes to go on his first NHL goal.
Then Stamkos stepped in during the waning seconds. He took a quick peek at the clock, noticing there were six ticks left. Stamkos, below the left circle near the goal line, received the pass from Victor Hedman and tried to hit the net.
"Can you say you're going for that top shelf corner there? No," Stamkos said.
Said Cooper: "Special players with special abilities can do that. And no bigger time than when we needed it."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com. Follow @TBTimes_JSmith.
|Lightning wins shootout 2-1|
First—None. Penalties—Paquette, TB, (hooking), 12:11.
Second—1, Fla, Sceviour 2 (Mackenzie), 2:38 (sh). 2, TB, Killorn 3 (Kucherov), 6:18. 3, TB, Palat 1 (Stamkos, Drouin), 16:21. Penalties—Trocheck, Fla, (slashing), 1:45; Nesterov, TB, (holding), 18:37.
Third—4, Fla, Trocheck 2 (Smith, Jokinen), 5:26. 5, Fla, Matheson 1 (Mckegg, Demers), 15:52. 6, TB, Stamkos 2 (Filppula, Hedman), 19:54. Penalties—Yandle, Fla, (roughing), 5:45; Brown, TB, (roughing), 5:45; Yandle, Fla, served by Jagr, (holding), 5:45; Drouin, TB, (hooking), 9:39.
OT—None. Penalties—Jagr, Fla, (tripping), 17:11.
Shootout—Fla 1 (Marchessault NG, Barkov NG, Trocheck G, Jokinen NG, Ekblad NG), TB 2 (Kucherov NG, Drouin G, Hedman NG, Point G). Shots—Florida 8-8-13-2—31. Tampa Bay 10-12-6—28. Power plays—Florida 0 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies— Florida, Reimer 0-0-1 (28 shots-25 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 2-0-0 (31-28).