The Lightning put up nine goals on the Vancouver Canucks -- who entered Tuesday's matchup on a seven-game win streak of their own -- tying the franchise mark for most goals in a game set twice previously, including once this year in mid-November against the New York Rangers. The Bolts exploded for six goals in the second period, including four over a 2:55 span toward the end of the middle frame to turn a tight 2-2 game into a blowout.
And Carter Verhaeghe, who entered the Vancouver contest with two goals through his first 28 games in the NHL, more than doubled that mark after recording his first career hat trick in Tampa Bay's dominating 9-2 victory over the Canucks.
With the win, the Lightning leapfrogged Toronto and climbed to second place in the Atlantic Division standings. And they still own two games in hand on the Maple Leafs as well as most of the rest of the division.
How were the Lightning able to dominate a team as hot as they were?
Here's how Tuesday's beatdown unfolded.
Video: VAN@TBL: Johnson rips shot that goes off Markstrom
1. A RECORD-SETTING PERIOD
Tampa Bay entered the second period trailing Vancouver 1-0 after the Canucks capitalized on a turnover in the Lightning zone with 1:02 remaining in the first.
The Bolts wouldn't trail for long.
Tyler Johnson had an initial attempt blocked by Vancouver goalie Jacob Markstrom, but the puck went up and over the goalie and sat on the edge of the goal line, where Johnson was able to push it over to tie the game 1-1 at 4:21 of the second.
Six minutes later on a power play, Brayden Point won the opening face-off on the man-advantage, pulling the puck back for Steven Stamkos to one-time in to the net two seconds into the power play, Stamkos atoning for his earlier mistake as he was the one who turned the puck over in the first period that led to Vancouver's opening goal.
"I thought we played a pretty good first period, and then that play happened and they get one," Stamkos said. "It could have been a downer, but the guys picked me up and I thought we had a hell of a game after that. I thought we controlled most of the play."
Loui Eriksson benefitted from a centering feed that went off the skate of Victor Hedman to level the score 2-2 at 14:05 of the second, but Alex Killorn answered almost immediately, outracing Tyler Myers to a loose puck in the neutral zone after Myers fanned on a shot from the right point and calmly depositing the breakaway opportunity five-hole through Markstrom for what would ultimately prove to be the game-winning goal.
That score opened the floodgates for the Lightning.
Verhaeghe scored the first of his three goals 1:59 later to make it 4-2 Lightning.
Nikita Kucherov lit the lamp 31 seconds after, again off a face-off draw won by Point.
Erik Cernak capped the six-goal explosion in the second period with his shot from the center point 25 seconds after Kucherov scored.
The Lightning scored the fourth, fifth and sixth goals in a span of 56 seconds for the third-fastest three goals in franchise history.
The six goals in the second also tied a franchise mark for most goals in a period set previously all the way back in the 1995-96 season.
With a 6-2 lead and all the momentum heading into the third period, the game was effectively over after 40 minutes.
"It was a close game for the first…period and a bit, and we just kind of broke out in the second," said Brayden Point, who finished with a goal and three assists for four points on the night. "They were playing a real strong game up until that point."
Video: VAN@TBL: Verhaeghe records first career hat trick
2. CRAZY FOR VERHAEGHE
Carter Verhaeghe just wasn't getting the bounces early in his NHL career.
The Lightning rookie had plenty of opportunities to score his first career goal in the League, but he just couldn't seem to cash in. A missed net here. A blocked shot there. A few tremendous saves against. Some nights, Verhaeghe had to think he'd never score.
Bouncing in and out of the lineup over the first couple months of the season, Verhaeghe finally got that all-important first goal in a December 7 win over the San Jose Sharks, part of a three-point night for the forward. Observers speculated goals would come in bunches once Verhaeghe got that first one out of his system.
They didn't come right away, but maybe now Verhaeghe is finally getting rewarded for his patience and determination.
Three nights earlier in Ottawa, Verhaeghe registered goal No. 2 of the season in the win over the Senators.
And on Tuesday, Verhaeghe had a game he'll remember for the rest of his life, scoring three times, including twice over the final eight minutes of the game, for his first career hat trick in front of the home fans at AMALIE Arena.
"He's been playing with some more confidence now," Stamkos said. "He could have had four or five (goals tonight). Obviously, great to get him out there and Kuch made a great play and as you could tell by the celebration on the bench, we were all so happy for him. Pretty cool moment to do that in front of your home fans too and get the full experience with all the hats. He'll remember that for a long time."
Verhaeghe's first goal almost went to Mitchell Stephens. Verhaeghe set up Stephens for a goal to put the Lightning up 4-2, but earlier on the shift, Verhaeghe appeared to hit the post with a shot that just missed. The refs reviewed the play after Stephens scored and determined Verhaeghe's initial shot crossed the goal line, meaning Stephens' goal a few seconds later never happened.
"I thought it hit the post for sure," Verhaeghe said of his initial attempt. "I guess it came off weird. I thought it hit the post and we kept playing and we ended up scoring again. Pretty crazy."
Midway through the third with the Lightning up 7-2 and the outcome already decided, it was Stephens setting up Verhaeghe by rifling a puck across the slot for a charging Verhaeghe to hammer home for his second goal of the evening, already making it an unforgettable night.
And late in the game with the Lightning awarded a 5-on-3 power play, head coach Jon Cooper sent Verhaeghe over the boards to try to get him the third goal. Nikita Kucherov set him up by threading a pass into the left circle for him, and Verhaeghe did the rest, blasting a shot into the net to start the parade of hats to the ice.
"It's been leading up," Cooper said. "He had a couple really good games here at the end of the road trip, and he was feeling it tonight. It was great to see."
Verhaeghe said his hat trick, the 59th in Lightning history, was a team effort as all his teammates were trying to set him up for the trifecta.
"I knew everyone was going to try and get me the puck," Verhaeghe said. "Kuch made a great play to me, and I think there were a couple other ones where guys were just trying to make plays to me and just missed. It's a pretty special feeling and I'm happy I got it and it's pretty special."
Video: VAN@TBL: Killorn capitalizes off a turnover
3. THE KILLER GOAL
Fans will have a hard time remembering because of the lopsided final score, but late in the second period, the Lightning and the Canucks were tied.
In fact, Vancouver had momentum in its favor when Bo Horvat threw a centering feed into the slot that went off Eriksson's skate first and Hedman's skate second to beat Andrei Vasilevskiy and knot the game up 2-2.
But it was the Lightning's quick response to that tying goal that set off the goal explosion that would follow.
Less than a minute after Eriksson leveled the score, Alex Killorn made arguably the play of the game. Tyler Myers was trying to shoot a puck on net from the right point but ended up whiffing on the shot. Killorn outraced Myers to the loose puck in the neutral zone, sped in front of the Canucks' defenseman to get a breakaway and calmly slipped a puck under Markstrom to put the Lightning back in the lead, this time for good.
"You have to brush those off," Cooper said of Eriksson's tying goal. "That's going to happen. Pucks are going to go off of you sometimes. It's how you respond. Getting the go-ahead goal so soon after that was a big boost for us."
Imagine for a second Killorn's goal never happened. Suddenly, the Lightning are in a tight 2-2 game where the opposition has been outplayed but also opportunistic on its chances. This could have turned into a game like the Lightning played in early December where they would outplay their competition but not getting rewarded for it.
Killorn's quick response ensured the Lightning wouldn't have time to sulk about being tied in a game they were controlling.
"It's huge," Stamkos said of Killorn's game-winning goal. "He's having a tremendous year. He's playing the game the right way. He's playing with a lot of poise, a lot of confidence. He's got a great shot. Obviously, put on the jets there and had a breakaway and made a great play. That was a big goal. They get one, another one kind of unlucky off Heddy's skate. Again, we could have deflated, but we get it back right away and then it was just kind of no looking back after that."