TAMPA -- Tampa Bay Lightning coach Guy Boucher used three words to describe Thursday night’s game against the San Jose Sharks:
"Character, character, character."
The particular character in question belonged to Martin St. Louis, who scored his second goal of the game with 32.8 seconds left in overtime to give the Lightning a 6-5 victory.
St. Louis fired a Victor Hedman’s centering pass from behind the net past Antti Niemi for the win -- and the 40th multigoal game of his career. It was the only shot by the Lightning in the extra period after Dwayne Roloson made the last five of his 45 saves in OT to give his team a chance to win.
Steven Stamkos, playing in his 300th career game, scored two goals, giving him a League-leading 39, and added two assists.
San Jose (31-17-7) opened the scoring just 1:16 into the game when Logan Couture got his 24th goal on a power play. From there, the lead changed hands seven times, with neither team leading by more than one goal. In all, 10 members of the Sharks hit the scoresheet while nine players recorded points for the Lightning.
During one 10-minute stretch of the second period, San Jose held the Lightning without a shot on net; a spell that ended with a goal by Steve Downie at 14:08. The Lightning finished the period outshot by the Sharks 20-4.
Before the game came to a conclusion, Tampa Bay would be outshot by a whopping 25 shots and allow a total of 50 shots, equaling a franchise record.
Despite the abundance of chances, the Sharks, now 1-1-1 on a nine-game road trip that continues Friday night at Carolina, could not find the back of the Lightning net often enough to put the game away.
"The six we gave up all night were disheartening," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "That’s as poor as we’ve played all season. Our net play was just atrocious. I’m really disappointed in our group because they’re much better than that."
Boucher saw the second period as crucial to the win.
"In the second period we hurt ourselves in the first 10 minutes," he said. "We turned the puck over on the blue line over and over again so that’s how they got their momentum, but we came back in the third and in the overtime. We had a lot of difference makers tonight, and that’s what makes a team."
Among the difference makers were Hedman, who skated for over 27 minutes and had three assists, and Brendan Mikkelson, who had two assists, his first points as a member of the Lightning since being acquired from Calgary in a trade on Jan. 6. Mikkelson led the team with five shots on goal.
"Steve (Yzerman) made a really good trade in the sense that he had known this guy and he’d seen this guy before and he felt he had exactly what we needed," Boucher said. "And he’s getting an opportunity to showcase that here. He’s been improving and he’s got a terrific attitude. Even on the power play, he’s very poised and he made a great play tonight, a great move. He’s got a lot of speed and a terrific shot; He’s been terrific for us."
Dwayne Roloson, making his first start in net since Feb 7, stopped 45 shots while getting his eighth win of the season.
Niemi allowed six goals on just 25 shots.
With the win, the Lightning (25-26-6) moved into 11th place in the Eastern Conference and climbed within eight points of eighth-place Toronto.
San Jose led 4-3 after two periods, but the Lightning tied it when Stamkos scored his second of the night at 2:44 of the third, then went ahead at 8:44 when St. Louis pumped home his 18th of the season.
But rookie Tommy Wingels earned the Sharks a point when he beat Roloson with 5:10 remaining in regulation.
Couture, who set up Wingels' goal, opened the scoring with a power-play goal just 1:16 after the opening faceoff. But Stamkos tied it at 9:30 and Teddy Purcell's power-play goal with 25 seconds left in the period put the Lightning up 2-1 at the first intermission.
The Sharks dominated the second period, outshooting the Lightning 20-4 and outscoring Tampa Bay 3-1. Michal Handzus tied it at 1:44, and after Downie's goal put the Lightning back in front, San Jose got goals by a pair of defensemen, Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Colin White, in a 67-second span to grab a 4-3 lead after 40 minutes, setting up the frantic third period and OT.
The Lightning also overcame some off-ice distractions, most notably the potential trade of defenseman Pavel Kubina -- he was scratched -- and the trade of Dominic Moore to San Jose for a second-round draft pick, a deal completed just prior to the start of the game.
"When the puck drops, you gotta go play," St. Louis said. "At the end of the day, we’re still going to fight, regardless of what’s going on around us -- you have to. There’s 26 games left, that’s like a third of a season. There’s plenty of time. If we throw in the towel because of what’s going on around us it would be a pretty miserable last two months."
Boucher put it this way:
"Giving up are two words that don’t exist in my vocabulary. It’s totally against my nature; I just can’t. We’re certainly never giving up. My plan is today. I have to get the team better and mentally, we got better today.
"It’s not about how many times we fall or what happens to us, it’s really how we react to it and how we get up. We were fighting and you could see the character."