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Lightning tops Senators in shootout

DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD   |   Times Tampa Bay Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov (90) beats Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) to tie the game at 3-3 during the third period of Thursdayâ\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0099s (12/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD | Times Tampa Bay Lightning center Vladislav Namestnikov (90) beats Ottawa Senators goalie Craig Anderson (41) to tie the game at 3-3 during the third period of Thursdayâ\u0080\u009A\u0080\u0099s (12/21/17) game between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena in Tampa.
Published Dec. 22, 2017

TAMPA — The Swede on the other bench Thursday, Ottawa's Erik Karlsson, plans to make "what I'm worth" in free agency in a few seasons.

That has to make the Lightning feel good about its Swedish cornerstone defenseman, Victor Hedman, whose long-term deal already seems like a bargain.

Hedman, due $7.875 million annually through 2024-25, is worth every penny.

Hedman might have been the best player on the ice in the Lightning's 4-3 victory over the Senators at Amalie Arena. Steven Stamkos scored the shootout winner. Vladislav Namestnikov added his career-high 15th goal to tie the score midway through the third. But Hedman continues to be the motor for the league's best team (25-7-2). He had a season-high nine shots in a workhorse 27 minutes, 58 seconds.

"Victor is in beast mode right now," coach Jon Cooper said. "He's been fun to watch. He can command, take over a game. And right now he's feeling it."

RELATED: Steven Stamkos changing his shootout luck for the better.

After a slow start offensively, Hedman has nine points in his past five games (two goals). He has been active and aggressive in both zones, with 26 total shots in that stretch.

"It's all about a little bit of offensive-zone confidence," Hedman said. "I've got a few bounces, and you start to feel better. I felt pretty good all year. But the last few games it's just been more production. But playing big minutes, that's what I want to do. I want to play in both ends of the ice, shut down the other team's top lines, too. It's a fine line."

But Hedman toes it well. He has set a high standard, with a career-high 72 points last season, when he was a Norris Trophy finalist. This is the two-way dynamic force Hedman is capable of being, and the Lightning needed it Thursday.

This is historically a tough game for the Lightning, its first back after a long road trip. It was tired after a 10-day, four-game trip that ended in Las Vegas. Several players had just gotten over the flu.

And this game didn't start well for Tampa Bay, which fell behind 1-0 after a Dan Girardi clearing attempt banked into his net off the knee of Braydon Coburn.

RELATED: Joe Smith's takeaways from Thursday's Lightning-Senators game.

But the Lightning impressively found its legs in the second period, Hedman providing a spark. Alex Killorn scored to tie it midway through the second. Ottawa scored three minutes later on a goal by Cody Ceci and held the lead until midway through the third.

That's when Hedman slashed into the Senators' zone on a give-and-go with Kucherov. He drove to the left post, drawing Karlsson to him. Hedman's shot was stopped by Craig Anderson.

"I should have scored on that one," Hedman said, smiling.

But the rebound bounced to Vladislav Namestnikov, who pounced on it for the tying goal.

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"(Hedman) has just got so much confidence," Stamkos said. "That's such a key thing as a player in this league. When you have the confidence, the game is really fun to play. You want the puck."

For the first part of the season, it was the Mikhail Sergachev show. The rookie defenseman had 23 points through his first 33 games, including five winning goals. Hedman was still a horse, and still running the top power-play unit, but he had just two goals in his first 31 games. You wondered, with the Lightning among the league leaders in points and goals by defensemen, what it would be like if Hedman began to roll.

ALL EYES GALLERY: The Lightning's win in photos.

"It was just a matter of time," Cooper said.

On the Lightning's road trip, Hedman had eight shots against the Coyotes. He was the best player on the ice against the Avalanche, with a goal and an assist in a 5-4 victory. Hedman scored the tying goal in the third period against Vegas, the Lightning coming 2.3 seconds away from getting at least a point.

"I'm really glad he's on our team," Johnson said. "Because he'd be a tough guy to stop."

First Period—1, Ottawa, Ryan 4, 6:31. Penalties—Smith, OTT, (hooking), 12:59; Stralman, TB, (holding), 15:33; Dotchin, TB, (interference), 17:13.

Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Killorn 4 (Johnson, Kucherov), 11:59. 3, Ottawa, Ceci 5 (Brassard, Claesson), 14:34. 4, Tampa Bay, Gourde 11 (Conacher, Killorn), 15:40. Penalties—Gourde, TB, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:21; Dzingel, OTT, (unsportsmanlike conduct), 13:21; Karlsson, OTT, (tripping), 17:09.

Third Period—5, Ottawa, Brassard 9 (Stone, Karlsson), 5:59 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 15 (Kucherov, Hedman), 11:05. Penalties—Coburn, TB, (slashing), 5:46; Harpur, OTT, Major (fighting), 13:25; Brown, TB, Major (fighting), 13:25.

Overtime—None. Penalties—Ottawa bench, served by Chabot (too many men on the ice), 3:52.

Shootout—Ottawa 0 (Pyatt NG, Duchene NG), Tampa Bay 2 (Point G, Kucherov NG, Stamkos G). Shots on Goal—Ottawa 9-6-6—21. Tampa Bay 7-18-8-5—38. Power-play opportunities—Ottawa 1 of 3; Tampa Bay 0 of 3. Goalies—Ottawa, Anderson 9-11-4 (38 shots-35 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 22-5-1 (21-18).

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