PITTSBURGH — Yanni Gourde threw an emphatic fist pump. Victor Hedman cut Brayden Point off to get behind the net and grab Gourde from behind in a big hug. The rest of the team was only a few steps away to join in the celebration.
As the group hug broke up, Kevin Shattenkirk hugged Gourde, then Luke Schenn. Cedric Paquette joined and it became another group hug. Everyone wanted a piece of the hero.
This wasn’t really about Gourde giving the Lightning a 2-1 overtime win over the Penguins. It was about him doing so to break his 35-game goal slump.
“It feels good, it feels really good,” Gourde said. “It was really great to score a goal at the end there. Finally.”
Hedman, Point and Gourde were fresh on the ice when he scored. Hedman drew the play up in the zone and then fed the puck to Point, who passed to Gourde and continued to the back door, ready for a potential pass.
That move froze goalie Matt Murray in the net and created a near-side opening for Gourde, who roofed the puck over the outstretched glove.
“That was awesome,” Hedman said. “I’m so happy for Gordo. He’s the guy who works his back off every night and you know that’s a tough stretch to go through.”
Gourde earned that goal to break the slump and the Lightning earned the win to extend their point streak to 10 games.
They played without four of their top players, starting without Steven Stamkos and Ryan McDonagh, then losing Anthony Cirelli and Nikita Kucherov along the way. The Lightning were playing in their second overtime in as many nights and the fourth straight bump and grind physical game.
Gourde’s goal followed a two-minute shift of three-on-three play for Mikhail Sergachev, who also scored the Lightning’s regulation goal, Mitchell Stephens and Ondrej Palat.
Jon Cooper called the win “one of the guttier ones I’ve seen.”
That fits. Gourde is one of the “guttier” players on the Lightning. Even going without a goal since Nov. 25, he was not floundering. He has other ways to contribute.
“I know I am better than just scoring goals,” Gourde said. “I can be effective and relevant to this team even when I’m not scoring.”
For Gourde that means taking pride in the details, the penalty kill, the forecheck, bringing energy, finishing hits. He knows the team looks to him for those elements. That kept him from losing faith in the long stretch between goals.
That’s not to say it was easy. From about game 10 (Dec. 14) to game 20 (Jan. 5) without a goal, he thought about it every day. After that, he tried to see past the drought.
“When you put the team first, it really shouldn’t matter and that’s what he’s been doing,” Cooper said. “The guys love him on the team and he works so hard, it’s hard not to root for a guy like that.”
The goal capped off a closely-played game against a team the Lightning beat at home only five days ago. Andrei Vasilevskiy (35 saves) and Murray (36) both came up big to keep the game close. Each team scored a power-play goal in regulation, Evgeni Malkin in the first period for the Penguins and Sergachev in the second for the Lightning.
In the end, continuing the Lightning’s win streak came down to breaking a drought.
“I’m just glad I scored that goal, finally,” Gourde said.