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Yanni Gourde scores another clutch goal for Lightning

Lightning center Yanni Gourde, front,  isn’t taking much credit for his goal that tied the score with the Canadiens at 1 in the third period: “(The puck) got tipped in front of me. I barely touched it, and it went in.”
Lightning center Yanni Gourde, front, isn’t taking much credit for his goal that tied the score with the Canadiens at 1 in the third period: “(The puck) got tipped in front of me. I barely touched it, and it went in.”
Published Apr. 2, 2017

TAMPA — C Yanni Gourde said he didn't really do too much, except, you know, score another big goal.

This one came at 11:38 in the third period Saturday and eventually helped earn the Lightning an all-important point in the standings despite a 2-1 overtime loss to the Canadiens.

"He's been a diamond in the rough down the stretch for us," coach Jon Cooper said.

Gourde deflected a shot by D Victor Hedman past G Carey Price to tie the score at 1. It was his fourth goal of the season. Two others tied the score in games, and one was an overtime winner.

"He's been playing great," Hedman said. "Playing big minutes for us, all kind of situations. That was a huge goal for us. Right spot at the right time."

The play was set up when Gourde won a faceoff in the offensive zone. D Jake Dotchin took a shot that was blocked. LW Jonathan Drouin got the puck and sent it to Hedman, who fired on net.

The puck hit Gourde's blade and went past Price.

" 'Heddy' saw me, I think, going to the net. He tried to pass it to me. It got tipped in front of me. I barely touched it, and it went in," Gourde said.

Playmakers versus chemistry

Coach Jon Cooper began his post-morning-skate news conference Saturday by going through the list of Lightning players not available for that night's game against the visiting Canadiens.

C Steven Stamkos? C Tyler Johnson?

"No. No," Cooper said. "Keeping going. (C Cedric) Paquette? No. (D Jason) Garrison? No."

Later in the session, Cooper was asked whether that given the play of the young players who have stepped in from AHL Syracuse to help fuel the Lightning's late-season playoff push, is it possible that the return of Stamkos, who hasn't played since Nov. 15 because of knee surgery, or Johnson, who has missed 11 games with a lower-body injury, could upset the current chemistry in the dressing room?

"For me, in the end, I want the best players in, and when those guys are healthy and ready to go, they're going back in," Cooper said. "I do see your point of don't rock the boat when things are going well, but we lost three games in a row right before (the four-game winning streak leading into Saturday's game.)"

Cooper said he liked the way D Jake Dotchin, C Gabriel Dumont, C Yanni Gourde and company have played but given a choice, he wants his best players on the ice.

"But you got to tip your cap to the players who've come up," Cooper said. "They've been game-changers for us. These guys … have really been the straw that stirred our drink."

Hedman of the class

D Victor Hedman set the Lightning season record for points by a defenseman Thursday against the Red Wings when he picked up his 51st assist of the season. With an assist Saturday, Hedman has 67 points (15 goals). He breaks Roman Hamrlik's mark of 65 (16-49) set in 1995-96.

No. 1 star

RW Nikita Kucherov was named the NHL's first star for March after recording 12 goals and 10 assists for 22 points in 14 games.