TAMPA — His coach says he plays every game as if he doesn't play his best, he's going to be sent down. That is not the case with Brayden Point, but who doesn't want that kind of effort from a second-year player who has more than established himself in the NHL?
Point was at it again Saturday against the Jets. He matched up against the Jets' top line, played on the power play and the penalty kill, assisted on the Lightning's first goal and scored the winner in overtime.
"He earned that," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said after the 4-3 victory in front of an announced sellout crowd of 19,092 at Amalie Arena.
Point began the winning rush by winning a faceoff in the offensive zone. He then cleared the zone with Anton Stralman and Ondrej Palat so they could use their speed on the rush, took a pass from Stralman and held on to the puck despite a poke check by the Jets' Bryan Little at the blue line.
With a clear path to the net, Point beat goalie Connor Hellebuyck with a backhand for his third overtime goal of the season. Point credited the play to having the opportunity and getting a break.
"Little made a good play on me to poke-check the puck, but it hit my shin pad and kind of bounced for a break," Point said. "It's luck, and it's opportunity. I'm just happy to finish it."
The Lightning (21-6-2) swept a four-game home stand by outlasting one of the best teams in the Western Conference. The Jets viewed the game as a benchmark, one that would show them how they stand against the best team in the NHL.
The Lightning circled the game on its schedule, knowing it would be a benchmark as the last night of the home stand. "It's going to be a big test for us," Steven Stamkos said before the game.
The teams traded goals through the first three periods.
Yanni Gourde scored on a power play late in the first to tie the score at 1. Mikhail Sergachev put the Lightning ahead early in the second with his seventh goal of the season. The Jets tied it late in the second and went ahead 3-2 in the third when Nikolaj Ehlers banked the puck off the left pad of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Ehlers had a pair of chances to give his team a two-goal lead, but Vasilevskiy made outstanding saves on both shots. "Unreal," Gourde said. "Two unreal, unbelievable saves he made there."
Those proved big when Nikita Kucherov scored less than two minutes later to tie the score at 3.
"We had the lead, and I don't know how that one found its way through," Hellebuyck said. "It's tough. Sometimes some teams get lucky."
Perhaps these teams were destined for overtime. They have played past regulation eight times in their 19 meetings since the Atlanta franchise relocated to Winnipeg in 2011.
And perhaps it was destined to end on a goal by Point, because that is what he seems to do.
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"That was a great play," Tyler Johnson said. "It was a great play by him and (Stralman) to take the puck back. On 3-on-3, when you get the zone a little bigger, the ice a little bigger and use the speed that he has, that's huge."
Said Gourde: "He made a nice move. The puck was right in his feet, and he was able to keep skating. Right then I knew he was probably going to score. He's pretty amazing in breakaways."
Point said it was the luck of the bounce.
Sure, but Johnson said it was pure Point after that.
"Once he got that breakaway," Johnson said, "I think everybody was over the boards before it even went across the line."
First Period—1, Winnipeg, Copp 4 (Lowry, Tanev), 1:23. 2, Tampa Bay, Gourde 9 (Point, Johnson), 18:57 (pp). Penalties—Dotchin, TB, (hooking), 4:14; Wheeler, WPG, (tripping), 10:36; Chiarot, WPG, (high sticking), 17:08.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Sergachev 7 (Johnson, Palat), 16:39. 4, Winnipeg, Connor 10 (Morrissey, Wheeler), 18:02. Penalties—Namestnikov, TB, (slashing), 1:59; Ehlers, WPG, (hooking), 1:59; Ehlers, WPG, (hooking), 9:19.
Third Period—5, Winnipeg, Ehlers 13 (Laine, Trouba), 7:02. 6, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 20 (Dotchin, Stamkos), 8:51. Penalties—None.
Overtime—7, Tampa Bay, Point 12 (Stralman), 0:36. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Winnipeg 5-6-9—20. Tampa Bay 13-8-5-2—28. Power-play opportunities—Winnipeg 0 of 1; Tampa Bay 1 of 3. Goalies—Winnipeg, Hellebuyck 15-3-4 (28 shots-24 saves). Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 19-4-1 (20-17). A—19,092 (19,092). T—2:32. Referees—Kyle Rehman, Kelly Sutherland. Linesmen—Derek Amell, Darren Gibbs.