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Burns: 3 Things from rallying against Florida

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 3-2 win over Florida

by Bryan Burns /

Following his team's come-from-behind 3-2 victory over Atlantic Division rival Florida, Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper called Ondrej Palat arguably the best player on the ice.

"He was a stud," Cooper said.

Palat scored the game-winner with 2:23 remaining in regulation, tipping Andrej Sustr's shot from the point past Florida goaltender James Reimer. But even before netting the goal that would give the Lightning their 10th victory in their last 15 games, Palat had a major influence on the outcome. He took a game-high seven shots on goal. He threw his body around for three hits. He stole two pucks and blocked a shot.

Video: FLA@TBL: Palat tips home Sustr's shot for the lead

Like Cooper said, he was a stud.

Who else contributed to the Lightning's important win, which gave them a four-point cushion over Florida in the Atlantic and pulled them to within three points of the final wild card in the East?

We'll recap the Bolts' standouts in 3 Things from rallying against the Panthers.

Video: FLA@TBL: Gourde steals puck, nets shorthanded goal

When Yanni Gourde was recalled from Syracuse on March 6, the 25 year old thought he was coming up as an extra option to help replace traded forwards Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula.

But with injuries to centermen Tyler Johnson, Vladislav Namestnikov and Cedric Paquette creating a hole down the middle for the Lightning, Gourde was tabbed to slide over to center and increase his role with the Lightning until the aforementioned trio was ready to get back in the lineup.

Lately, Gourde's been showing just how valuable having a deep farm system can be.

On Thursday, Gourde recorded the second point of his NHL career in his sixth-career game, assisting Nikita Kucherov's empty-net goal to seal the Bolts' 4-1 win over Western Division-leading Minnesota.

Two nights later, Gourde scored his first-ever NHL goal.

And he did so in spectacular fashion.

With the Lightning on the penalty kill, Gourde stole the puck at the Bolts blue line and raced up the ice to try to outpace the Panthers' Vincent Trocheck. With Trocheck draped all over him to try to knock the puck away, Gourde fought off Trocheck's attempt to disrupt, kept possession of the puck even as Trocheck was about to be whistled for a delayed penalty and was able to slip a shot underneath Reimer to tie the score 2-2 midway through the second period.

"For him to take the puck from a really good player on their team and be able to fight him off and score that goal, it was uplifting for all of us," Cooper said. "The way he capped off a period in which we really gutted one out, big goal and a big moment for him."

Gourde becomes one of just three Lightning players to score a shorthanded goal this season, joining J.T. Brown and Alex Killorn.

Per the Elias Sports Bureau, Gourde is also one of four Bolts all-time to net his first career goal shorthanded along with Eric Perrin (Nov. 2, 2006), Sami Helenius (Jan. 30, 1999) and Aaron Gavey (Oct. 21, 1995).

"Just a surreal moment," Gourde said. "Something you dream of all your childhood. It was just a surreal moment. Unbelievable."

 Video: Cooper on Bolts' 3-2 victory over the Panthers

The Lightning could have easily folded after falling behind 2-0 in the first period, especially considering the number of youngsters in the lineup due to the injury situation.

The Bolts felt the score wasn't an accurate representation of the play on the ice, however. Cooper thought the Lightning could have been the ones ahead at the first intermission, a couple of bad bounces keeping them on the wrong end of the score.

"We could've easily been up 2-0 in that period going into the break, but there was a lot of fight in the boys we had left," Cooper said. "We felt we were playing well enough. It was keep working the way we were and things will pay off, and they eventually did."

Following the game, Jonathan Drouin said the Lightning were happy with how they played in the first period. Ondrej Palat agreed, adding that the Bolts felt eventually the breaks would go their way and the game would turn.

"(The Panthers) got a couple shots that went in, but we stuck with it," Palat said. "We talked about it after the first, that we need to keep playing like we did and we can be good."

The Bolts didn't panic, stuck to the original script and produced an important win to remain one of the hottest teams in the NHL.

 Video: FLA@TBL: Vasilevskiy gloves Marchessault's snap shot


Probably the biggest moment in the game wasn't a big goal or timely save.

Instead, the game changed when the Lightning killed off a 5-on-3 power play for Florida immediately after Gourde's goal leveled the score 2-2. The Panthers easily could have retaken the lead on a two-man advantage for nearly a minute.

Tampa Bay, however, was disruptive in its penalty kill, not letting Florida shoot anything troubling toward Andrei Vasilevskiy. After Jason Garrison sent one final clear up the ice to finish the kill, AMALIE Arena erupted, and momentum was squarely on the Bolts' side.

"I know being on the other side, when you don't score 5-on-3, it's disappointing," Drouin said. "You come back to the bench, you're frustrated and it carries on your game for a good two, three shifts. So, to kill that, we definitely grabbed momentum from that as a team."

Florida didn't get too many good looks the rest of the way on Vasilevskiy, who improved to 5-0-1 over his last six starts and made 30-plus saves for the fifth time in his last six. And the Lightning eventually netted the game-winner on Palat's heads-up tip from the slot.

"I loved his attack, his will," Cooper said of Palat. "There was one shift there in the second period that he just saved every play. Every time Florida came down, the guy that was rubbing somebody out or finishing his check and getting the puck turned over was Palat. It's fitting that he ended up getting the winner."

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