NASHVILLE — The Lightning had to be patient Saturday night against the Predators. They spent most of the night looking to the sky, talking to themselves, wondering out loud what they would have to do to break through against Nashville goaltender Juuse Saros.
They went into the final four minutes of regulation trailing by a goal but finally found a way late.
Right wing Alex Killorn scored on a deflection in the final minutes of the third period, and Steven Stamkos launched a one-timer from the high slot with 2:24 remaining in overtime to give the Lightning a 3-2 comeback win in Music City that they could be proud of.
The win was Tampa Bay’s fourth straight, second in overtime this week and sixth in 11 games this season when tied or trailing after two periods.
“They showed a little moxie,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I thought they just earned their breaks the whole way, and it’s a 60-minute game. We talked about it, we don’t have to hurry up and win this game. We’ll win it at some point if we just stick with what we’re doing, and it takes discipline to do that.”
In overtime, Mikhail Sergachev pushed a loose puck through the neutral zone, giving Stamkos had a breakaway at the blue line. With nothing but open ice in front of him, Stamkos drew a high-sticking penalty by Mattias Ekholm to give the Lightning their fifth power play of the night.
Moments later, Tampa Bay moved the puck methodically trying to set up an open shot when Stamkos received a return touch pass from Kucherov. The captain launched a one-timer top shelf over Saros’ glove to give the Lightning their third win in four overtime games this season.
“It’s one of those games where you just rely on past experience, you rely on the depth of your team, roll the lines and guys just do their job,” Stamkos said. “But their goalie played well. Sometimes you just tip your cap, and we had some chances.
“I think the shots were a lot, too little (results) in the first, and we had six minutes in penalties. So, stay out of the box and just play the way that we have been 5-on-5, and we got rewarded.”
The Lightning had 30 shots on goal through two periods, including a season-high 18 in the first. They had as many 5-on-5 high-danger chances in the first two periods (nine) as the Predators had total scoring chances over that stretch. But Tampa Bay had just one goal to show for it going into the second intermission.
“You just can’t force it,” Killorn said. “(Saros) made a ton of great saves. He was really good (Saturday) for them. ... And if he’s going to make that many saves the entire game, good on him, but we were able to get a couple on him in the end. ... In those situations, you can get away from your game and try to manufacture things that aren’t there. We didn’t do that.”
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Right wing Nikita Kucherov scored the Lightning’s first goal and assisted on the other two, getting the primary assist on Stamkos’ winner in overtime.
With the Lightning trailing 1-0 after one period, Kucherov put the game on his stick on the power play, taking the puck end-to-end, weaving through the neutral zone, parting two Nashville skaters and roofing a shot that hit the crossbar and went into the net.
On Killorn’s tying goal, Kucherov took the puck off the boards and kicked it out to the right point, where Ian Cole launched a shot on net that Killorn deflected past Saros with 3:21 left in regulation.
“(Kucherov) was awesome (Saturday),” Killorn said. “On my goal, he makes an unbelievable play off the wall and then he gets the game-winning assist to ‘Stammer,’ so he was definitely our best player (Saturday).”
After allowing a power-play goal in the first period, the Lightning penalty kill was 4-for-4 for the rest of the night, including a key kill late in the third after defenseman Zach Bogosian was whistled for kneeing. Twenty-three seconds after the penalty expired, Killorn scored the tying goal.
“It’s 60 minutes,” Cooper said. “And if you start to let emotions and frustrations get in you because you’re not putting the puck in the net, I was saying to the guys, ‘You’re getting the chances. They’re not all gonna go in. It’s when they go in,’ and they went in at the right time for us.”
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 30 saves, including several key stops down the stretch after Nino Niederreiter scored a go-ahead goal just over five minutes into the third period. After that score, Vasilevskiy made four saves over an eight-second stretch as the Predators peppered him in front of the net.
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