TAMPA — When the Lightning saw their one-goal lead against the Dallas Stars dissipate late in the third period Tuesday night — after allowing yet another short-handed goal — they could have let the game slip away.
But they made sure there were no hanging heads on the bench after Mikhail Sergachev overskated the puck in his own zone, gift-wrapping the tying goal for Stars forward Radek Faksa with 4:42 remaining in regulation.
“The group was very positive,” said Lightning forward Alex Killorn. “We had a job left to do, and we did it.”
Killorn scored the game-winner with 1:17 left in the 3-on-3 overtime period, taking a pass from Sergachev on the rush and beating Stars goaltender Jake Oettinger farside to give the Lightning a 5-4 win.
Steven Stamkos, who started the rush after bringing the puck off the far wall and getting it to Sergachev at the blue line, earned his 500th career assist on the play.
“Off the face, I saw that two guys went to ‘Stammer,’ and I figured if he could get it to ‘Sergy’ we’d have a 2-on-1, which ended up happening,” Killorn said. “I was trying to find ‘Sergy’ the whole time, and (Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen) played it pretty well, and I shot low glove and it went in.”
Not much earlier, Sergachev was attempting to bring the puck out of the Tampa Bay zone on the power play when he lost it to Faksa in front of his own net while looking up ice. The result was a league-high fifth time this season the Lightning allowed a short-handed goal.
“Nobody felt as bad as ‘Sergy,’” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “‘Sergy’ was probably a little embarrassed, but he stayed right out there. Nobody cared. Everyone’s like, ‘Hey, It’s no big deal. There’s a lot of power play left.’ It’s not like they took the lead. They just tied it. ... I thought that was great, and I thought that carried us through.”
“Those are growth moments for sure,” Cooper added.
Cooper had emphasized the need to play better defense, and, while the Lightning certainly allowed too many goals, they regrouped after Sergachev’s misstep, winning their first game when allowing four goals or more. They were winless (0-3-1) in those situations entering the night.
“Tough play, and it happens to all of us,” said forward Nick Paul, who scored a power-play goal in the second period and assisted on Ian Cole’s go-ahead goal in the third. “It happens there, but no one started pointing fingers, no one got down.
“We picked each other up and we said, ‘You know what? Stuff happens, but we’re gonna win this game. We’re gonna come together as a group, and we’re going to do it together,’ and that’s exactly what we did.”
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As a group, the Lightning were resilient on offense, winning puck battles, driving to the net and buzzing around the offensive zone to ensure themselves multiple chances.
“Big work ethic night for us,” Paul said. “I think in the O-zone, it can easily be going the other way and us playing defense. But we’re moving our feet, we’re lifting sticks, we’re winning battles. And out of that, we’re creating chances. So, I think that’s huge for us.”
A go-ahead goal by Cole, a left-shot defenseman playing on the right side next to Victor Hedman due to an injury to Erik Cernak, was an example. Hedman took a shot, and Paul pushed the rebound to Cole, who caught Oettinger lunging out of position and tucked the puck into the near side of the net to put the Lightning ahead 4-3 just under four minutes into the third period.
“I saw ‘Heddy’ winding up for a one-(timer), so I figured I wasn’t getting the puck up high.” said Cole, who also assisted on Stamkos’ second-period goal. “So, I figured it’s going to be a rebound or he’s going to miss the net or it’s going to be somewhere over there in the far corner. So, might as well get going and go find it.”
Killorn’s overtime goal came on his third shot of the extra period. He was denied by Oettinger twice in front earlier.
“He made it a little more stressful than it maybe had to be on the first play that he had alone,” Stamkos joked. “He made up for it. Great shot, and obviously a big goal for our team.”
Stamkos, who is 11 short of reaching his 500th career goal, joked that he reached the 500-assist milestone first.
“I mean, for a guy that a lot of people think he’s just the shooter, I’ll rub that in their face a little bit that I got the assists first,” Stamkos quipped. “I’ve played, obviously, a long time. I’ve played with some really amazing players, and I’ve gotten an opportunity to have a lot of great memories in this league and hopefully many more. So it’s pretty cool.”
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