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Lightning finish strong to salvage victory over Senators

There’s still room for improvement, but Tampa Bay wins for the fourth time in its past five games.
Tampa Bay Lightning's Anthony Cirelli (71) skates the puck up ice as Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP)
Tampa Bay Lightning's Anthony Cirelli (71) skates the puck up ice as Ottawa Senators' Thomas Chabot (72) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game in Ottawa, Ontario on Saturday, Nov. 6, 2021. (Sean Kilpatrick/The Canadian Press via AP) [ SEAN KILPATRICK | AP ]
Published Nov. 6, 2021
Updated Nov. 7, 2021

One characteristic the Lightning had over the past two years — and it’s a big reason they won consecutive Stanley Cups — is that they never seemed to let frustration fester.

They used disappointing performances as fuel and more often than not came out stronger and more determined in their next game.

On Thursday, they fumed over their loss in Toronto, a game in which they allowed 12 odd-man rushes and blew a one-goal lead in the final minute of regulation before losing in overtime.

After two periods against the Senators on Saturday afternoon in Ottawa, they were in danger of suffering the same fate: losing a game in which they had played well enough to win.

Finding themselves in a 2-2 game in which both Senators goals had resulted from turnovers at Tampa Bay’s blue line, the Lightning came out focused in the third period. Sticking to what has pulled out many games for them in the past — playing smartly and staying aggressive — they put together a strong three-goal third to beat the rebuilding Senators 5-3.

Though there were discouraging moments, the Lightning return from their two-game trip to Canada having netted three of a possible four points.

“That’s always a great record,” defenseman Victor Hedman said. “(Saturday) was a big game for us.”

The Lightning (6-3-2) have won four of their past five games and earned points in six of their last seven.

Steven Stamkos scored the go-ahead goal 7:32 into the third period, cleaning up a rebound of an Alex Killorn shot from the slot. Mathieu Joseph set up the goal by using his speed to push the puck up the ice, putting the Ottawa defenders on their heels. He dropped a pass to Killorn, whose shot from the slot was denied. Stamkos swooped in for the rebound and beat goaltender Matt Murray inside the far post.

Stamkos also had an assist in the game, giving him a team-high 14 points.

After his goal, the teams combined to score three goals in the final two minutes of play.

Ondrej Palat scored on a rush, filling the net with a wrist shot from in front of the net off a pass from Anthony Cirelli with 1:41 left. Palat returned the favor just over a minute later, finding Cirelli for an empty-netter to make it 5-2. Cirelli’s goal made Senators forward Logan Shaw’s tally with 16 seconds left mere stat-sheet fodder.

“Unlike the Toronto game a couple nights ago, where we just didn’t stick with our process, it was a big thing for us to come up in the third and not change, not chase the game with it tied,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And we didn’t and got rewarded for it.”

After the Toronto game, Hedman said the Lightning played too conservatively in the third period, like they were chasing the game despite having the lead. Two days later, they played with considerably more urgency.

Despite being outshot 13-4 in the opening period, the Lightning went into the first intermission up 1-0 on a power-play goal by Hedman, his first score of the season and the Lightning’s third in 24 man-advantages over the past nine games. Goaltender Brian Elliott, making his first start in 12 days, withstood the Senators’ early surge and finished with 24 saves.

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But early in the second period, defenseman Cal Foote’s turnover led to Ottawa’s first goal. After defenseman Jan Rutta scored his first goal in nearly two years to put the Lightning up 2-1, Rutta’s bad pass against the boards led to Brady Tkachuk’s tying goal with 43 seconds left in the period.

The Lightning reset in the third.

“We didn’t chase the game; we played deep,” Cooper said. “The scoring chances were 2 to 1 for Ottawa in the first period. But it’s not the scoring chances you’re getting; it’s what you’ve giving up. And in those last two periods, we didn’t give very much up. You want to win hockey games in this league, you have to defend.”

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at Follow @EddieintheYard.

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