Jeff Toms shot down the goaltending duel that was wasn't, scoring an overtime goal to lift the Lightning to 4-3 come-from-behind victory over Calgary on Friday night.
The dramatic goal by Toms overshadowed a game billed more for what it wasn't than what it was, one which started with Rick Tabaracci in goal for Tampa Bay and ended with the relief appearance of Corey Schwab, who allowed the Flames nothing the rest of the way.
This was also a return to Calgary for Lightning coach Terry Crisp, greeted here with a tip of the ten-gallon or a hearty handshake whenever spotted making his annual in-season trek from Tampa Bay. At Dusty's Saloon, the message board even welcomed the former Flames coach to town with a large-letter greeting of "Howdy Crispy."
But for the first time since he started coming here with the Lightning in 1992, Crisp's return to city where he coached the '89 Stanley Cup champions was overshadowed by someone else's homecoming. Friday, the bigger-billed Showdown at the Saddledome pitted supposed rivals Tabaracci and Trevor Kidd.
Or it did, at least, until Crisp pulled Tabaracci with the Flames leading 3-1, igniting the Lightning rally. Shawn Burr's goal with just more than three minutes left in third forced overtime.
At 2:46 of the five-minute extra period, Toms got the puck at the top of the crease, skated to his left and lifted the game-winner over Kidd.
Chris Gratton tipped Jeff Norton's shot past Kidd to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead early in the first, but Tommy Albelin answered with a power-play goal before the opening period was done.
After Tabaracci allowed two more, one to Hnat Domenichelli off Sandy McCarthy's pass from the corner early in the second and the other to German Titov off Corey Millen's pass from behind the net at 9:08 of the middle period, the battle in goal became Kidd vs. Lightning backup Schwab.
The switch seemed to come not so much because Tabaracci gave up bad goals, but more because the Lightning needed a lift. Alex Selivanov provided that before the second period was done, lifting the rebound of his wraparound attempt over Kidd to cut Calgary's lead to one.
Schwab, meanwhile, turned away all he faced, and with that the Lightning heads to Vancouver and ends its swing through western Canada tonight.
The win in front of 17,278 snapped a four-game losing streak for Tampa Bay, which made up a bit of ground on Friday losers Hartford and Washington. Still, with 11 regular-season games left, the Lightning remains on the outside looking in at a tight Eastern Conference playoff race.
That leaves more difficult goaltending questions for Crisp, who decided to go with Tabaracci only after much consideration: Schwab looked good against Calgary in Tampa Bay's only win in more than two weeks. Usual No. 1 Daren Puppa is traveling, and apparently healthy enough to play. And Tabaracci hadn't won since March 4.
The coach went with his instincts, knowing what this game meant to Tabaracci.
With Crisp long gone from Calgary, different faces with the Flames became the most popular. Joe Nieuwendyk was it for a good while. Theo Fluery took his turn. Gary Roberts, too.
Then last season, his only full one in a brief stay with the Flames, journeyman Tabaracci took over the throne. With a knack for locker room leadership and an effervescent grin, he won over Calgary. "Tabby owned this city," said Jamie Huscroft, the ex-Flames defenseman traded this week to the Lightning.
He did, that is, until Calgary dished the career backup to the Lightning for Aaron Gavey. "I thought the fans were gonna burn down the Saddledome when he got traded," Huscroft said. "They loved Tabby."
Still, the deal was done. Tampa Bay got a dependable fill-in while Puppa recovered from back surgery; Calgary got rid of its goaltending controversy, one really brewing after comments from Kidd suggesting he couldn't cheer for his fellow Flames goalie because it would cost him playing time.
"I think Kidder was a little jealous of Tabby," Huscroft said. "In the dressing room it was not a big deal, but the media did blow it up."
So when Tabaracci arrived, newspaper, radio and television reporters were waiting to greet him at the Calgary Westin.
"I was ready for that," Tabaracci said. "They were looking for the big story, but there just wasn't one there."
Neither was the Showdown at the Saddledome. At least not the one billed as Tabaracci vs. Kidd.