TAMPA -- The good news for the Tampa Bay Lightning was that Steven Stamkos' goal 30 seconds into overtime gave them a 5-4 victory against the Calgary Flames on Thursday night.
The bad news was that they had to go past regulation to win a game they led by two goals entering the third period.
The Lightning (13-16-2) scored three times in the second period and appeared primed to cruise to an easy win as they entered the final 20 minutes with a 4-2 lead. But Calgary (14-14-3) made it a one-goal game when Rene Bourque scored on a breakaway 58 seconds into the third period, and Olli Jokinen tied it by scoring a power-play goal with 3:12 left in regulation, redirecting Alex Tanguay's shot behind Mathieu Garon.
"We know in order to win we can't be blowing two-goal leads in the third period," Stamkos said after taking Eric Brewer's pass and tucking the puck past Miikka Kiprusoff to end Tampa Bay's two-game slide. "In the end, we stuck with it. We made sure we got the one point at least, and then it was nice getting the two points in the end."
The Lightning had been seeking secondary scoring and they got it with goals from Teddy Purcell, Tom Pyatt, Ryan Malone and Nate Thompson before Stamkos' game-winner.
The Lightning also got some bounces, something that hadn't been happening during a slide that has dropped them near the bottom in the Eastern Conference. Purcell opened the scoring 5:11 into the game on the power play when his centering pass from behind the net bounced off Calgary defenseman Chris Butler and over the goal line. The goal was Purcell's first in 17 games and gave the Lightning three power-play goals on their last 10 opportunities.
But the Flames roared back and grabbed a 2-1 lead when Matt Stajan scored his first goal of the season at 19:27 of the first period and Jarome Iginla scored his 12th at 1:57 of the second, just two seconds after a power play had ended. Iginla's goal was the 496th of his career.
Pyatt tied it at 9:50, and Malone put the Lightning back in front less than two minutes later by beating Kiprusoff from the left circle. Thompson then ended a 20-game goal drought with 33.4 seconds left in the period when his shot hit the unlucky Butler in the leg and again deflected into the net.
After a strong second period which saw the Lightning outscore Calgary three goals to one and outshoot the Flames 18-5, Tampa Bay was dominated in the third period – the Lightning surrendered two goals, didn't get a shot on goal for the first 12:35 and were outshot 13-5.
That set the stage for Stamkos, whose 19th goal tied him with Ottawa's Milan Michalek for the League lead.
Calgary coach Brett Sutter was critical of some mental errors by his team.
"It's about details of the game," Sutter said. "It's the hockey intelligence side of the game that you've got to be smarter. It's not the way you play the game. When you go on the ice, you've always got to be aware of what you're doing and how you're doing it. That's why there's structure in the game. That's why you've got to be smart."
Although Sutter didn't point any fingers, he didn't have to, as far as Jokinen was concerned.
"You put yourself in a position where you have a chance to win and get two points," Jokinen said, "then a mistake like that on my part -- not staying high, not playing smart hockey -- cost us an extra point."
Victor Hedman and Steve Downie each had two assists for the Lightning. Stamkos also had an assist on Pyatt's goal, giving him 14 points in his last 11 games and three goals in his last two.
Kiprusoff finished with 29 saves on 34 shots while Garon earned his seventh win of the season, stopping 23 of 27 shots.
"Tonight was big," Garon said. "I think we battled hard; we kept showing life and found a way to win."
For the Lightning, who had won only one of their previous eight games prior to Thursday, any victory is big right now.
"Hopefully, this is the start of something good," Stamkos said.