Tampa Bay opened up an early 2-0 lead over the Kings, the last place team in the Western Conference, and appeared to be well on its way to cruising to another victory.
But the Lightning struggled to hit the target with their shots, letting the Kings hang around until they scored three-straight goals to take a brief lead in the third period. The Bolts rallied to force overtime and an eventual shootout, where Victor Hedman provided the game-deciding goal in the fourth round.
The Lightning reached 100 points for the season, the second-consecutive season with 100 points and sixth season overall. They're tied for the third-fastest team in NHL history to reach the 100-point mark, needing just 63 games. And they won for the ninth-consecutive outing, tying the team record for a win streak established previously during the 2015-16 season.
The Bolts will go for consecutive win No. 10 and the record Wednesday in New York City when they take on the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
But first, how No. 9 almost got away from them.
Video: Jon Cooper on the shootout win
1. MISSED OPPORTUNITIES
Tampa Bay had numerous chances to put the Kings away early after going up 2-0.
On one power play in the second period, the Lightning hit four separate posts, including three within the span of about two seconds on the same scoring sequence.
For whatever reason, the Lightning just couldn't hit the mark on many of their shots. Tampa Bay finished with 66 shot attempts against the Kings. Of those 66 shots, 23 - over one-third -- were misses.
"It was kind of a weird game," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "We couldn't get the third one and we had ample chances to get it…It wasn't missed shots from 60 feet out. They were missed shots from 10 to 15 feet out. We just couldn't get that third one. I thought if we got the third one, we could have got a few more. Maybe would have changed the game a little bit, but we didn't get it. We let them hang around and they were battling, give them credit."
Tampa Bay owned a clear special teams advantage over the Kings, the Lightning sporting the top-ranked power play in the NHL and the Kings 30th out of 31 teams on the penalty kill. The Bolts wasted little time capitalizing on their first power-play chance, which came 55 seconds into the game. Nikita Kucherov knocked down a clear attempt by the Kings and sent a puck over to Steven Stamkos, who hit a wide-open Brayden Point in the slot with the Kings scrambling to get back in position to score just 10 seconds into the power play.
But the Lightning had three more chances to exploit Los Angeles' shaky penalty kill and couldn't take advantage.
Meanwhile, the Bolts' inability to extend their lead fueled the Kings' confidence, and they scored three goals in quick succession in the third period to take the lead and stun the sellout crowd at AMALIE Arena.
"You have a two-goal lead at home, that needs to be automatic for our group and it should be with where we are," Stamkos said. "So, we're not pleased with that, but in saying that, the demeanor on the bench was very positive to just go out and get one."
Video: LAK@TBL: Miller rips a one-timer past Campbell
2. A QUICK RESPONSE
Despite seeing their two-goal lead evaporate in six minutes in the third period to the second-to-worst team (points-wise) in the NHL, the Lightning never panicked or got down on themselves.
Their resolve has been tested many times this season. The team has a belief they're never out of a game, no matter the circumstances. With 48 wins in 63 games, that belief isn't misguided.
"They've shown the ability to bounce back," Cooper said. "…Early on in the year, it was a lot of games we were down multiple goals and had to come back. We haven't given up too many leads in the third. It's a great job by them to come back and rebound, especially as fast as we did."
J.T. Miller got the Lightning back on even terms just 36 seconds after Austin Wagner gave the Kings their first lead. Ondrej Palat started the game-tying sequence by forcing Matt Roy into an errant pass. Stamkos swooped in to steal and fed Miller across the slot for a one-timer that tied the game 3-3.
"We got the puck in deep, simple," Stamkos said. "I just tried to make a read on the defenseman. He tried to make a pass up the middle. I was able to pick it off and knew we had a little 2-on-1 there. Millsy's got a great shot from there. He's not going to miss, so just wanted to make sure I got it in his wheelhouse and obviously a big goal for us."
The confidence the Kings grabbed from scoring three-straight goals and taking a lead on the league-leading Lightning never really got a chance to materialize because as soon as they went in the lead, the Bolts took it right back from them.
That quick response by Tampa Bay was a pivotal moment in the game as it allowed the Lightning to get the game to overtime and a shootout, where they would eventually win, and it dashed all the momentum the Kings had generated early in the third period.
Video: BriseBois on the Trade Deadline
3. STANDING PAT
The Lightning were silent during Monday's trade deadline, the management team deciding to roll with the team as currently constructed for this season's playoff run.
Considering the squad is on pace to tie the NHL record for most wins in a season and its projected point total would rank third all-time in League history, the decision not to tinker with the roster was probably a smart one.
The Lightning weren't going to make a move just to make one on Monday. For Tampa Bay to sign off on a deal, it had to be one that would make the team better and aid its Stanley Cup run. Bolts general manager Julien BriseBois, in his post-trade deadline press conference, stated that deal just wasn't out there this season.
And he's fully confident in the group assembled as is to get the job done.
"You want to know what's out there and you want to make sure that you diligently analyze any possible opportunities to improve your team," BriseBois said, referring to a number of ingoing and outgoing calls the team made throughout the month-long trade deadline process. "Ultimately, I just didn't find anything that I could say, 'Yeah, that makes us a better team. That makes sense. That brings us closer to winning a Stanley Cup.' It wasn't there."
It's hard to argue with the need for change, no matter how minor, with the Lightning. They lead the League for goals per game and are tied for third for goals against. Their power play is the best in the NHL. Their penalty kill is second. They own a substantial lead in the NHL standings and an even more substantial lead in the Eastern Conference.
All four lines on the Lightning can contribute. The blueline is as stable as its ever been. The Bolts have one of the best goalie tandems in the league. Good players - players who would start for most NHL teams - have to sit on a nightly basis because of the depth the team possesses.
The Lightning are in a really good spot right now, BriseBois surmised. Why mess with what's been working?
"Right now, everyone knows what their roles are on the team," BriseBois said. "Everyone's bought in. Everyone's put the team first. Again, I think we have a special group, and there wasn't an opportunity out there that was presented to me that I could say, 'Yeah, that makes us a better team.'"