For the third straight game to open 2016-17, the Lightning found themselves staring at a deficit. Against in-state rival Florida on Tuesday, Colton Sceviour netted the opening goal at 2:38 of the second period to put the Bolts behind.
Tampa Bay rallied to take a 2-1 lead heading into the third period, but Florida answered, netting a pair of goals, the last coming with 4:08 on the clock, to go up 3-2.
The Lightning's luck appeared to be running out.
But this team, this season, is never out of it.
With 5.5 seconds left in regulation and Florida a few ticks away from handing the Lightning their first loss of the season, Steven Stamkos provided the lifeline, winding up from a sharp angle to the left of goal and ripping Victor Hedman's pass through Panthers goalie James Reimer and into the goal to salvage a point.
Brayden Point and Ben Bishop supplied the Bolts with both points following the former's successful shootout conversion and the latter's four shootout saves.
The Lightning are 3-0-0 to start the season for the second-straight year and fifth time in franchise history.
3 Things from another thriller at AMALIE ahead.
1. VINNY RETURNS
Video: FLA@TBL: Lighting honor legend LecavalierThe list of accomplishments is lengthy and remarkable.
- Most games played in Lightning history (1,037) and only player to break the 1,000-game milestone
- 383 goals, most all-time for the Lightning
- Of those 383 goals, 112 coming on the power-play, also most all-time for the Lightning
- Four All-Star Game appearances
- A Maurice 'Rocket' Richard Trophy as a reward for his 52-goal season in 2006-07
- And, most importantly, a Stanley Cup for the Lightning
On Tuesday, Vincent Lecavalier returned to the organization where he "grew up." After retiring from the NHL this offseason following 17 seasons (14 with the Lightning, 2 with Philadelphia and a last season split between the Flyers and the Los Angeles Kings), Lecavalier was welcomed back to AMALIE Arena. Fans gave the Bolts all-timer a standing ovation as a video montage of his highlights played on Lightning Vision.
Lecavalier also dropped the ceremonial first puck.
"It's obviously a great honor to be back here," Lecavalier said. "Just to be in this building, not as an opponent, it feels great. It's nice to be back. I've been (in Tampa) since the beginning of August, and just to see everybody in town, the community, everything, it's been a lot of fun."
Lecavalier said he'll spend this first year of retirement enjoying time with his wife and three children but would like to stay involved with the Lightning organization.
"They've already asked for some activities, and I'm definitely happy to be in this community and if there are events and stuff like that, I'll definitely come and have a good time doing them," Lecavalier said. "So, yeah, I'll be here. I'm not going to go hide. I'm still going to be here. "
Lecavalier was reflective when he met with reporters before the festivities.
"It's just a great honor to be able to play here, wear the jersey and go through everything we went through," he said. "It's been a great ride."
It certainly has Vinny.
We're just glad we were allowed to be a passenger in the car.
2. KARMA'S A BOLT
Last season, the Panthers had the Lightning's number, winning four of their five meetings during the regular season.
Two of those victories came down to the last few seconds. In their first meeting in Tampa, Aaron Ekblad scored a power-play goal with 38 seconds remaining in regulation to tie the game 4-4 and send it to a shootout, where the Panthers would eventually prevail.
Two days later in Sunrise, Ekblad again sunk the Lightning, notching the only goal of the game with 21 seconds to go in a 1-0 Florida victory.
On Tuesday, the Lightning enacted a measure of revenge.
The Lightning were the better team through two periods, but Florida outplayed the Bolts in the third and were able to rally from a 2-1 deficit to take a 3-2 lead with less than five minutes to go.
For a while, it looked like that score would hold. The Lightning struggled to keep the puck in the Panthers' zone, and when they were able to hold possession in deep, they were typically able to get off only one shot before the puck was back out and headed the other way.
But the Bolts, who have displayed a quiet calm on the bench all season and a belief they always have a chance, never threw in the towel.
Ben Bishop headed to the bench with 1:11 left to give the Lightning the extra attacker, and the Bolts' final push salvaged two points.
With the clock approaching zero, Victor Hedman got the puck at the left point and spotted Steven Stamkos down low. From a sharp angle, Stamkos one-timed a shot at goal that most people wouldn't have a prayer of making.
Most people aren't Steven Stamkos, however.
Stamkos shot sailed across the mouth of goal behind Reimer and snuck inside the far post to give the Bolts new life as AMALIE Arena went nuts at the new 3-3 score.
Video: FLA@TBLA: Stamkos buries one-timer in final seconds"I was right in front of the net," Alex Killorn said. "I was shocked he was trying to shoot it."
Added Point: "I don't think too many guys can do that. That was a fun one to watch."
With one point in the bag, the Bolts set out to pick up two and pull ahead in the Atlantic Division standings.
They have Steven Stamkos to thank.
"There's not many guys in the league that can do that, and when I say not many, you're talking one hand," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said. "Even then, I don't know if you're even getting to the thumb. Special players with special abilities like that can do that and no bigger time than when we needed it because we clearly were leaking oil in that third period."
3. MAKING A POINT
Video: FLA@TBL: Point scores on first career SO attemptBraydon Point admitted to being a bit nervous when his number was called and he was sent out on the ice to take Tampa Bay's sixth attempt in the deciding shootout.
"I just tried to make the best of it," he said in the locker room following the game.
Point certainly looked like he knew what he was doing where others before him - Valtteri Filppula, Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman - had failed. He confidently sprinted up to the puck and took off with a full head of steam toward Reimer.
"I like to come in with some speed," Point said. "I just tried to look at the goalie and kind of see what he was doing."
As he got closer to the crease, Point fired a wrist shot glove side that Reimer never even got a piece of before it settled in the back of the net.
Calm, cool, collected
Like he'd been doing it his whole life
"I never took a shot in the minors, but in juniors, we have shootouts there," Point said. "I've taken some there."
Here's guessing he'll probably take a few more at the NHL level should the opportunity arise.