Tampa Bay trailed 3-1 late but crept closer with 2:16 remaining, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos netting his 400th career NHL goal to pull the Lightning to within one.
Kyle Connor pushed Winnipeg's advantage back to two goals with 88 seconds remaining to seemingly end Tampa Bay's comeback hopes, but still the Lightning wouldn't go down without a fight. Anthony Cirelli jammed home a rebound with 22 seconds left to again cut the deficit to a single goal, and the Lightning produced a couple chances in the closing seconds to make Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck and his teammates sweat. The Jets, though, hung on for the one-goal win.
The Lightning begin a two-game set away from AMALIE Arena, starting with Tuesday's game at the defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues, before returning home next weekend.
Before looking ahead to the much-anticipated dads' trip, however, let's recap how Saturday's contest got away from the Bolts.
Video: TBL Recap: Stamkos gets 400th NHL goal in 4-3 loss
1. TALE OF TWO GAMES
In Thursday's 9-3 blowout of the New York Rangers, everything the Lightning sent to the net went in. The Bolts tied franchise records for goals (9) and power-play goals (5) in a game and established a new mark for most total assists in a game (17).
On Saturday, the Lightning could have used a little of that puck luck.
The Bolts produced nearly as many scoring opportunities as they did against the Rangers, they just couldn't find the back of the net like they did two nights earlier.
Winnipeg goalie Connor Hellebuyck was part of the problem. The perennial Vezina Trophy candidate stopped 31-of-34 shots and saved his best for the end of the game with the Lightning pushing hard to tie it up, his diving glove save of Ondrej Palat's wide open shot from the slot the highlight of the game for the Jets.
But the Lightning didn't help themselves either. Steven Stamkos twice hit the post with a good look at goal before reaching his milestone marker late. Plenty of other Lightning players had opportunities to get on the scoresheet too but came up agonizingly short.
"Everything goes in the other night against New York and I thought we had some good quality chances tonight, the goalie made some good saves, hit a couple posts," Stamkos said. "The start was slow, but I didn't think it was that poor. Obviously, the urgency picked up at the end when we were down, but maybe a case of too little, too late."
The Lightning outshot the Jets 34-27 and had more high-quality scoring chances in the contest. But the Jets capitalized on their opportunities while the Bolts couldn't, a departure from what the AMALIE Arena crowd experienced 48 hours earlier.
"How many posts did we hit? And then that save on Pally at the end of the game that could have changed the game too. Stammer hit three posts," Pat Maroon said, lamenting the Lightning's missed opportunities. "In the second period there alone, it could have been 2-1 us, we take that penalty and it's 3-1. We had the momentum, we shifted it from the first to the second. I thought we were doing a good job of that, and just a couple good saves by the goalie and a couple posts that maybe that would have went in the other night but didn't go in tonight."
Video: Cooper on the high stick challenge
2. THE GAME-CHANING SEQUENCE
Saturday's game was even through 20 minutes, the teams entering the locker room tied 1-1.
The score remained level until Jack Roslovic parked himself at the edge of the crease then slammed home Andrew Copp's feed from behind the net to put Winnipeg back in front 2-1.
But should it have counted?
After some discussion with his assistants, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper challenged the goal, claiming there should have been a stoppage in play earlier for a high stick. Video review didn't confirm what Cooper and his staff saw, however, so the goal counted and the Bolts were assessed a two-minute delay of game penalty, which the Jets quickly capitalized on just 21 seconds after Roslovic's goal to go up 3-1 and seize momentum.
"We wouldn't challenge that unless we were 100 percent it was a high stick," Cooper said. "Apparently you have to be 110 percent."
In the blink of an eye, a Lightning team that started the game slowly but had been building through the first period, tied the game and looked to take control in the second suddenly found themselves trailing by a pair goals and staring at an uphill climb to get back into the game.
"It was a high stick I thought," Maroon said. "I think the TV didn't really see it, but he high stuck it. Power play, they got one and they got the momentum, but I thought we played a strong game all around. We didn't really give up much 5-on-5. The power play kind of cost us there."
Special teams in general didn't help the Lightning Saturday against the Jets after stringing together a few games of positive results. The Lightning went 0-for-2 on their power plays and couldn't generate any momentum with the man-advantage. The Bolts' penalty kill extended its kill streak to 16 straight after killing an early second period interference penalty to Yanni Gourde but couldn't get No. 17 as Ehlers was allowed to possess the puck down low on the Jets' second power play, wheeled into the right circle to find an opening and whipped a shot over the left shoulder of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
"Obviously that changes the whole game," Stamkos said. "It's tough. Challenges seem like they're really, really tough to win this year. So, if we're going to go for it, we obviously thought it was going to go our way, but it didn't. Then it's a double whammy, it's a goal. We've got to try to kill that one off, and we don't. That's the way it goes but we still had a chance to stay in the game. We didn't get going there until later in the third."
Video: WPG@TBL: Stamkos nets 400th career NHL goal
3. MAKING HISTORY
Steven Stamkos reached the 400-goal milestone late in the contest, doing so fittingly with a one-timer from his office in the left circle set up by longtime teammate Victor Hedman.
The Lightning defenseman estimated he's been around for about 380 of Stamkos' 400 goals.
"It's special," Hedman said. "Me and Stammer have been here for a long time and obviously really good friends. Special player. He's our captain. To score 400 goals in the NHL, 400 goals for one team, that's pretty special. I'm creeping up on 100, so I'll try to catch him."
Hedman scored his 98th career goal earlier in the game to tie Chris Gratton for 12th place among Tampa Bay's all-time goal scorers, but he's got quite a ways to catch up to Stamkos, who becomes the first player to score all 400 goals with the Lightning and the ninth active player in the NHL to reach the accomplishment, joining Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Marleau, Marian Hossa, Sidney Crosby, Ilya Kovalchuk, Eric Staal, Joe Thornton and Marian Gaborik.
"Anytime you hit a milestone, it's always better to do it in your home barn in front of your home fans," Stamkos said. "I'm sure these are one of those moments that you kind of reflect on after the fact, but in saying that, still pretty surreal. You never envision scoring that many goals in the NHL. Hopefully a lot more to come. Would have been nicer in a win, but nice to just get it out of the way too and focus on the next game."
Pat Maroon said he probably hasn't scored 400 goals in his lifetime even when adding pee wee, junior and minor league hockey into the count.
"He did it at the highest level that you can play at," Maroon said. "What an amazing accomplishment. And what a pure goal scorer, him and Ovechkin are probably the best pure goal scorers in the League, and he proves it every single night, he proves he's a natural goal scorer and that's why teams try to lock him up every single night."