The Lightning were less than 30 seconds from leaving Ottawa demoralized and dejected. After falling behind 2-0, the Bolts rallied to tie the game in the third period and dominated the Senators from the second period on.
A broken play late, however, allowed Codi Ceci to convert a 2-on-1 break for the Senators, who went back in front 3-2 with less than five minutes to go.
But the Lightning were undeterred.
With a 6-on-4 advantage following a late power play and an empty net, the Lightning went to work late, Ryan McDonagh providing the crucial play to get the puck down low for Brayden Point to slam home on the doorstep and tie the game 3-3 with 27 seconds to go.
The Lightning wasted little time in overtime, Point driving hard to the net to produce a rebound that Yanni Gourde was able to clean up.
Tampa Bay remains first in the Atlantic Division and Eastern Conference. The Lightning have yet to lose to an Atlantic foe (4-0-0) or an Eastern Conference opponent (7-0-0) this season and have set a franchise record for consecutive wins against conference opponents to start a season.
The Bolts return home with all four points on the brief road swing.
How were they able to rally?
Breaking down a thrilling finish in Ottawa.
1. GO JOE GO
It was only a matter of time before Mathieu Joseph scored his first career NHL goal.
The rookie winger has come oh-so-close countless times this season. A night earlier in Montreal, the Chambly, Quebec native (roughly a half-hour across the St. Lawrence River from Montreal) impressed his friends and family in attendance with his continued relentless play but was unable to light the lamp.
That would have to come another day.
One day to be specific.
With the Lightning trailing 2-1 in Ottawa Sunday night but controlling play and with all the momentum, Joseph delivered in a crucial moment for the Bolts, taking Anthony Cirelli's feed after both Bolts got behind the Ottawa defense and shooting past Sens goalie Craig Anderson to level the score 2-2 at 3:04 of the third period. Anton Stralman stepped up on the play to prevent the Senators from exiting the zone, the puck caromed to Cirelli, and he and Joseph were able to work a 2-on-none break that Joseph converted.
Joseph will undoubtedly score many goals in the NHL over the course of his career.
But the first one is always the sweetest. And it couldn't have come at a better time for the Lightning.
"In Montreal last night, I think he had seven people there," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "I don't know how many followed him to Ottawa, but it was a special moment and he'll always remember that. And it was a huge instrumental goal that helped us win the game."
Now that Joseph got that first one under his belt, perhaps more will follow with regularity. Last year in his first pro season with the Syracuse Crunch, Joseph didn't score until the 10th game of the season. He would go on net 15 goals and put up a team-leading 52 points, that production part of the reason why he was able to make the Lightning roster out of training camp.
Let's hope then Joseph's second pro season follows the same point trajectory as his first.
2. BIG (TIME) MAC
Since Victor Hedman was forced to the sideline with an upper-body injury, Ryan McDonagh has been the blueliner on the back end the Lightning have leaned on the most to fill the void.
McDonagh has proven more than capable and has thrived as the Bolts' main man on the blue line.
The veteran defenseman tallied three assists in Sunday's game - matching career highs for single-game assists and single-game points -- and helped set up the game-tying goal and the overtime game-winner. He led the Lightning for time on ice (26:53) as he's done a majority of the season. And he took three shots, giving him 20 over the five games Hedman's missed to help drive the offense in the Norris Trophy winner's absence.
But the play he made at the end of the game to essentially steal two points in Ottawa was maybe his brightest moment in a Lightning sweater since being traded to Tampa Bay on February 26.
With the Lightning on a 6-on-4, the Bolts' net empty and under a minute to go, the Lightning tried to set up a shot for Nikita Kucherov from inside the blue line. Kucherov's blast accidentally hit McDonagh, however, and the Senators quickly turned the other way in what looked to be a 3-on-1 rush and an easy empty-netter to seal the victory.
Except McDonagh recovered quickly and hustled back to get a stick between the legs of Mark Borowiecki, lifted Borowiecki's stick before the Sens defenseman could gain control of the puck, backhanded the puck back into the zone for Tyler Johnson and watched as Johnson fed Brayden Point on the doorstep for the game-tying goal.
"How often do you see a shot block, a takeaway and an apple all within three-and-a-half seconds? That's hard to do," Cooper said. "Didn't give up on the play, and it was fortunate for us they were trying to head out of the zone. Mac just made a phenomenal play lifting the stick there, and the boys went to work after that."
In about six seconds, Tampa Bay went from a demoralizing loss in Ottawa to salvaging at least a point.
And it was all because Ryan McDonagh never gave up on the play that produced the tying goal.
3. QUICK FINISH
The Lightning had all the momentum entering overtime following Point's late goal to tie the game.
And it didn't take them long to capitalize and complete the comeback.
Point, Gourde and McDonagh started the 3-on-3 overtime, and Point won the critical opening draw to get the puck on McDonagh's stick.
McDonagh passed ahead for Gourde, who skated up ice to the center line before dishing off to Point on his left.
Point hit the turbo button to get around Thomas Chabot and made a hard move to the goal. Anderson was ready, diving forward with his stick to knock the puck away from Point. But the loose change slipped out front for Gourde to lift over the fallen goalie and into the back of the net to complete the incredible comeback.
The Lightning have started a troublesome trend where they fall behind early in games and are forced to rally. The Bolts have given up the opening goal in five-straight games.
Fortunately, they have the firepower and the resolve to recover. Tampa Bay is 6-2-0 this season when giving up the first goal.
The comeback took a little longer in Ottawa than it did a night earlier in Montreal.
But the result was the same for the Lightning: two points and another victory, their 10th of the season to join Nashville as the only NHL teams with double digit wins.
"I really thought our guys kept chipping away," Cooper said. "It did not come easy and they continued to work all the way to the end. The group has showed that this year for us, and I thought (we) deserved two points tonight."