Cirelli saved the Bolts the embarrassment of losing a second-straight game to the third-worst team in the Eastern Conference with a brilliant display of individual skill, splitting a pair of Senators in the 3-on-3 session, getting in alone on goal and lifting a puck over the pad of Ottawa goalie Marcus Hogberg as he crashed into the goal.
The Lightning absolutely could not afford to let two points go by the wayside against Ottawa and were able to pull out a hard-fought, back-and-forth affair against a pesky Senators team that just never went away despite the Bolts controlling the puck for the majority of the game and limiting the Sens' chances to just a handful.
"We needed those two (points), and we got them," Bolts head coach Jon Cooper said following the victory.
The Lightning have now won eight straight against Atlantic Division opponents after starting the season 2-2-0 versus the division. Their last loss in the Atlantic came in Ottawa in a 4-2 loss to the Senators on October 12, one of the low points of the season for the Bolts.
Tampa Bay was determined not to let a struggling Ottawa team slip away with another victory against them this season.
Here's how they were able get the job done.
Video: Anthony Cirelli's game winning overtime goal vs. OTT
1. TONY THE TIGER
Anthony Cirelli's overtime game-winner was a bit of luck, a bit of skill and a lot of determination from the third-year center.
With time expiring in the extra session, Cirelli stripped Thomas Chabot of the puck in the defensive zone.
Cirelli started up the other way and sensed an opening between the Senators' Nick Paul and a late-arriving Chris Tierney from the bench.
"I saw a little bit of a gap there," Cirelli explained. "Just tried to use my speed. Lucky I got by them."
Cirelli hit the turbo boost to blow past Tierney. Then he danced his way around Paul and shrugged off Paul's attempt to backcheck him.
With nothing but open ice between him and Ottawa goalie Marcus Hogberg, Cirelli got the puck on his forehand and lifted it just enough over the left leg pad of Hogberg and across the goal line before he crashed into Hogberg and the net, knocking it off its moorings.
"Just wanted to get one on net and still managed to hit the goalie, but luckily this one counted," Cirelli said.
Cirelli had two goals called back this season for goaltender interference in similar situations where he's alone on goal but ran into the goalie before he could get a shot off. He admitted after the game he was a little nervous his game-winner Tuesday might not count either.
"I didn't want to celebrate too hard because I thought there was a chance it could maybe get called back," he said. "Once the guys jumped on the ice, it was a lot of fun and huge we got the two points tonight."
Cooper said Cirelli "willed" the Lightning to the win over Ottawa.
"What a burst, especially he was north of 20 minutes tonight, so to have that in the 64th minute of the game, that was pretty impressive," Cooper said. "We've been getting that out of him since the day he's been with this team. Reward him now with ice time and he's giving it back to us with plays like that."
Video: Cirelli on scoring game-winning goal
2. THE UNSUNG HERO
Cirelli was named the No. 1 star from Tuesday's win over Ottawa, and rightly so.
But Andrei Vasilevskiy made a save in overtime that, had he not made, wouldn't have given Cirelli his chance to be the hero moments later.
A couple of tired Lightning skaters and a bad line shift led to a wide-open breakaway attempt for Jean-Gabriel Pageau in the extra session. Pageau was waiting at the Lightning blue line for the puck, and when he received it, there was no one from the Bolts in close proximity. All they could do was watch and hope.
Fortunately, the Lightning have Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.
The reigning Vezina Trophy winner held firm with Pageau barreling down on him. He swallowed up the attempt and allowed the game to remain there for the taking for the Bolts.
And a few moments later, Cirelli took it.
"I'll own that a little bit, I think I was a little late on calling the lines because we were kind of getting chances and I think I got probably caught up in the game a little bit as well and we were late kind of on the jump and we missed an assignment," Cooper said. "But you need your guy to make a save, and Vasy's done that for us.
"That was a huge one tonight."
Vasilevskiy has won four of his last five starts. Tonight he tied Ben Bishop for most starts in Tampa Bay Lightning history after making his 222nd start in net for the Bolts.
And his overtime save on Pageau might get overlooked because of Cirelli's heroics but was just as important, maybe more so.
Video: Shattenkirk on Bolts getting two points
3. A MASSIVE, EXTENDED KILL
With the game still tied 3-3 midway through the third period, Ottawa was gifted a golden opportunity to take its first lead of the game when Steven Stamkos was whistled for a high-sticking call of the four-minute variety.
The Lightning had controlled play throughout the third period and hadn't allowed the Senators to even sniff the net. Yet here was Ottawa with a chance to pull in front and sneak out of AMALIE Arena with a victory.
Except the Lightning penalty kill rose to the occasion. Not only did the Bolts not give up the go-ahead goal on the four-minute Ottawa power play, they also gained momentum from a successful kill where they essentially held the Senators to zero high-quality scoring chances.
"Huge part of the game, massive part," said Bolts center Brayden Point, who recorded a goal and assist Tuesday for his seventh multi-point game of the season. "The boys battled really hard. There were a lot of blocks. I don't think we gave them too much. They did a great job on the forecheck and on their entry and just a massive part of the game."
Cooper called the effort by the penalty kill "uplifting" at that moment in the game.
"I don't know if we'd given up a shot in the period yet," Cooper said. "We had our chances and all of a sudden two (minutes) turns into four. It was an outstanding job by them. In the first two minutes, I don't think they got a shot. Then we started leaking oil a little bit because four minutes to kill, guys are getting gassed. But Vasy was there when we needed them. Those are plays, you've got to kill those off. You want to win, you've got to kill those off and the boys did that tonight."
The Lightning penalty kill went 4-for-4 against Ottawa. Quietly, that unit has been climbing in the NHL standings. Entering Tuesday's game, the PK ranked fifth in the League for home penalty-kill percentage.
The four-minute effort late in the Ottawa game though might have been the unit's finest moment of the season thus far.