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Burns: 3 Things we learned from outlasting Philly

Beat writer Bryan Burns recaps Tampa Bay's 6-5 overtime win over Philadelphia

by Bryan Burns /

Well, where do we start with this one.

Tampa Bay played almost a carbon copy of its first meeting against Philadelphia Thursday night at AMALIE Arena in the opening game from the Holiday Break.

In both games, the Lightning scored five goals through two periods and established a multiple-goal lead.

In both games, the Flyers stormed back in the third period in quick-strike fashion to tie the game, leaving the Bolts bewildered at how a seemingly comfortable victory was suddenly in danger of slipping away.

And in both games, the Lightning rebounded in overtime to bank two more points.

Thursday, Alex Killorn took a pass from Anthony Cirelli and shot past Flyers goaltender Michal Neuvirth 18 seconds into the extra session to allow the Lightning to escape with a 6-5 victory and extend their point streak to 13 games, tied for the second longest in franchise history. Over a month earlier in Philadelphia, it was Killorn setting up Cirelli for the game-winner in overtime, both contests being decided by a 6-5 score.

The Lightning improved to 29-7-2 on the season and became the first team in the NHL to reach 60 points.

But they won't exactly feel good about it.

"This is going to be one of those wins where you feel more disappointed than happy," Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said following the victory.

How did it almost get away from the Bolts? And how were they able to get it back?
We'll examine both in Three Things we learned from a dicey win.

Video: Cooper | Postgame TBL 6, PHI 5

After Tyler Johnson tipped Nikita Kucherov's right circle shot up and over Neuvirth with nine seconds remaining in the second period, the Lightning enjoyed a 5-2 lead heading into the second intermission having scored three-consecutive goals after Philly tied the game roughly five minutes into the middle frame.

Tampa Bay seemed to be well on its way to winning its 29th game of the season, its point streak in absolutely no danger.

But the Lightning didn't learn their lesson from their trip to Philadelphia earlier this season on November 17. The Flyers weren't going to go away. In fact, the three-goal deficit almost seemed to galvanize them, just like it did in Philadelphia.

When Dale Weise scored 93 seconds into the third period, the good vibes from the end of the second period were extinguished. The fact the Flyers were able to score so early in the period established they were going to hang around for the duration.

When Robert Hagg scored less than three minutes after Weise, a collective "uh oh" permeated AMALIE Arena. The Flyers enjoyed non-stop pressure around Andrei Vasilevskiy's net. They were getting wide-open, Grade-A chances against a Lightning team that suddenly forgot how to defend.

At the 8:38 mark of the third, the inevitable happened. Ivan Provorov got free on the inside edge of the left circle off a face-off and shot unencumbered past Vasilevskiy to level the score 5-5, the Lightning somehow blowing a three-goal lead in the time it takes the average fan to use the bathroom and maybe pick up a tray of nachos on the way back.

"It's unacceptable," Nikita Kucherov said. "We have to manage the game. We have to play the right way all 60 minutes and don't let them feel the game and get back in the game. We just have to learn from that and get better the next game."

"Last game we played them at home we were in the same situation. We knew we could come back because they were going to be sloppy with a big lead," Hagg said from the visitors' locker room. "Somehow we found a lot of energy in that intermission and we came out really good."

The Lightning need to figure out how they lost their energy in the second intermission and make sure it doesn't happen again. This team has blown big third period leads in the past (remember the Ottawa home game when the Bolts were up 4-2 going into the third and lost 6-4?), and they almost let another one slip away Thursday night.

Video: PHI@TBL: Killorn wins it in OT for Lightning

Despite watching its three-goal lead evaporate, Tampa Bay was able to regain its composure with the game tied 5-5 and stem the momentum shift.

Andrei Vasilevskiy was a major reason why.

With just over seven minutes remaining in regulation, Jakub Voracek was somehow left wide open in the slot, and Sean Couturier, below the goal line, hit him on the tape with a pass. Voracek had the game-winning goal on his stick. Except Vasilevskiy sensed the play coming, jumped quickly to his left to cover most of the goal and stuck his glove up in time to push Voracek's shot away, keeping the game tied and salvaging what would eventually become two points.

"The guy you're upset for is the goaltender. He's really the unsung hero," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "He always gets a lot of praise when he's noticeable. And then when you just win other games where you played solid defensively, he doesn't really get a tap on the back. So, you feel bad for him."

Vasilevskiy's goals-against average and save percentage might have taken a hit in the Philadelphia game thanks to some shoddy defending in front of him, but his wins continue to pile up, now at 13 on the season and four (out of five starts) since coming back from injury.

He and his teammates have Alex Killorn to thank for that.

On the overtime game-winning goal, Anthony Cirelli started the play by stripping the puck from Claude Giroux at the Flyers' blue line. Victor Hedman drove the net to take a defender with him. Cirelli dropped a pass for the trailing Killorn, and from the top of the right circle, Killorn snapped a shot that pinged the iron and dropped over the goal line to give the Bolts a win that maybe they didn't deserve.
"It's tough to get two points in this league, so we'll certainly take it and continue that run that we're on," Stamkos said. "Very uncharacteristic of our team, especially this year, to be at home, play the way that we did in the second period, gain all that momentum and then just completely come out flat in the third…The message will be that there's lots to be shown tomorrow that we'll improve on. I liked how we did stick with it once they did tie it. But that's not the way we go about our business in this room."

Video: PHI@TBL: Stamkos finishes two feeds from Kucherov

Taking a step back from Thursday's nerve-racking result, Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos continue to set all kinds of records in the month of December.

Kucherov registered a goal and three assists against Philadelphia for four points, this after putting up a career-high five points a game earlier in Edmonton in the final game before the break. Kucherov's nine points over two games set a new Lightning mark for most points over two-consecutive team games. The Russian winger has 11 points over his last three games, also a franchise record for most points over three-consecutive team games.

Kucherov now has 19 assists and 26 points in December, both Lightning records for assists and points in a month. And he still has two more games to play before the calendar flips.

Steven Stamkos scored two more goals against Philadelphia -- extending his goal run to five games and giving him 15 goals over his last 13 games -- and added two assists for a four-point night of his own. Stamkos entered the game leading the NHL for goals in December and cushioned his lead. He established a new career high for goals in a month - he has 14 - and also set a franchise record for most goals in a single month in Lightning history, bettering the old mark of 13 set by both Martin St. Louis in January of 2004 and Kucherov in October of 2017.

Again, Stamkos still has two more games to add to his record.

"He has a lot of goals and a lot of points in this league," Cooper said. "…He can sniff out offensive situations. There's certain guys - and every team's got one or two of them, we happen to have a few of them - that pucks have eyes for. When he's kind of feeling it, you want to get him the puck because there's a good chance it's going to go in. Guys have been giving him pucks in really good situations…and he's shooting. That's the big thing. When he's deferring to the shot first mentality, these are things that happen."

Oh, and almost as a throwaway note, Stamkos (now with 341 career assists) passed Brad Richards and moved into sole possession of third place among Tampa Bay's all-time assist leaders.

Now, if the Lightning could just clean up those third periods.

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