The Tampa Bay Lightning let a two-goal third period lead slip away at AMALIE Arena Saturday night, but the Bolts recovered to defeat the Columbus Blue Jackets in a shootout 5-4, Steven Stamkos converting the only shootout attempt to net the game-winner.
At times, the Bolts looked capable of pulling away for a comfortable victory over the Blue Jackets. But Columbus was resilient, outplaying the Lightning over the final 20 minutes of regulation to earn a point and force overtime.
Tampa Bay collected three of four points on its two-game homestand and now heads to California next week for three games against the Sharks, Kings and Ducks.
The Lightning improve to a NHL-best 11-2-2, and, with 24 points, are off to their best start through 15 games in franchise history.
How did they collect win No. 11?
We'll take a closer look in Three Things we learned from outlasting the Blue Jackets.
1. EARLY DEFICIT, QUICK ANSWER
Tampa Bay went down a goal just 2:30 into the game. Seth Jones' innocuous shot from the boards was swatted away by the stick of Andrei Vasilevskiy but right into Victor Hedman on the edge of the crease. The puck deflected high up in the air and over the unaware Vasilevskiy to put Columbus up 1-0.
The lucky bounce didn't deter the Lightning. Just 24 seconds later, Brayden Point latched onto a deflected shot on the edge of the blue paint and was able to backhand a shot past Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovskiy to tie the game 1-1 almost as quickly as the Blue Jackets had taken the lead.
Nikita Kucherov gave the Lightning their first advantage 38 seconds following Point's game-tying goal, the NHL's goal leader firing a shot from the right circle past his countryman for a 2-1 Tampa Bay advantage at 3:32.
Video: CBJ@TBL: Kucherov slams home Sergachev's stellar feed
In a span of 1:02, the Lightning went from 1-0 down to up 2-1, the quick response sending a clear signal they would be ready for whatever Columbus threw at them Saturday night.
If the Bolts were to come out flat after a deflating 2-1 overtime loss to the New York Rangers on Thursday, Columbus' quick goal certainly served to provide a jolt of urgency in the early going that would carry the Lightning through the first two periods.
2. CRITICAL KILL
The Lightning took an ill-advised penalty in overtime, Steven Stamkos getting whistled for tripping just 1:05 into the extra session.
Columbus had several opportunities to net the game winner on the 4-on-3 power play, but the Bolts' penalty kill, mainly Ryan Callahan, Braydon Coburn and Dan Girardi, did a superb job not giving the Blue Jackets any Grade-A looks at goal. When the Blue Jackets did get a sliver of an opening to shoot, Andrei Vasilevskiy was dialed in to make the stop and keep the game deadlocked.
Video: CBJ@TBL: Vasilevskiy stops Panarin's one-timer in OT
Stamkos made up for his gaffe in the shootout. After Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point were unsuccessful in the first two rounds, the Lightning captain lifted the Bolts to victory with his conversion, the team's first in two shootouts this season.
Vasilevskiy made the ensuing stop on Sonny Milano to end the shootout and capture both points for the Lightning.
"It just goes to show you can go from hero to goat pretty quick if they score on that dumb penalty I took in overtime," Stamkos said. "So, obviously, a lot of thanks to the PK guys. They did a great job, especially Vasy with some huge saves just to get that opportunity. So, it was nice to see that one go in."
3. DÉJÀ VU
The 2014-15 Tampa Bay Lightning team that went to the Stanley Cup Final developed a signature trait over the course of that regular season: an ability to squash losing streaks before they could even get started.
That squad never lost more than two games in a row until the Stanley Cup Final against Chicago.
The current Lightning team is developing a similar habit, at least at the start of the season.
"Early to say, but what I can say about this team so far though is when we've had a little bit of a stinker, we've responded," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "You've got to like that about your group. The big things is, you just can't have the stinkers every second night. But I've really liked the way the guys have responded when we've had a subpar performance."
After an uneven opening weekend of the season in a pair of games against Florida, the Lightning reeled off four victories in a row. When the Lightning lost 5-4 in a shootout at New Jersey, admittedly not a bad performance or result, they came back with four more consecutive victories.
Last Saturday's 4-1 loss versus Anaheim, arguably the Bolts' worst game of the year, was followed by an 8-5 offensive explosion in Sunrise.
And, again, the Bolts shook off a lethargic outing in Thursday's 2-1 overtime loss to the Rangers, at the time the last-place team in the Metropolitan Division, to come out with a more well-rounded effort Saturday versus a really good Columbus team.
"We want to be a team that bounces back after tough games," Bolts defenseman Victor Hedman said. "It doesn't have to be losses. We know when we're not at our best and you can still win games. We want to come back strong every time we have an opportunity."
The 2014-15 team was able to rather comfortably qualify for the postseason thanks to an ability to respond with a positive effort following a loss.
That same habit is quickly becoming a hallmark of the 2017-18 Bolts as well.