For the Lightning, this one had a sleepy start and an electric finish. In all, it was a bumpy path to their 11th victory in the past 12 games. But it was an important victory - a triumph that came immediately after their franchise record-tying 10-game winning streak ended and one that preceded a tough back-to-back road swing later this week.
In the opening 10 minutes, the Lightning looked flat and the Kings were sharp. Los Angeles was quicker to loose pucks, executed plays crisply, and built a 2-0 lead. But once Alex Killorn scored his 19th goal of the season (tying a career-high) at 10:06, the Lightning found their legs. They tied the game just over a minute later when Steven Stamkos jammed home a rebound of an Anthony Cirelli point-blank chance.
Most of this game was played with the score tied at two. And while it's true that the Kings outshot the Lightning on the night, 41-38, it's important to keep in mind that LA is a high shot-volume team. The shot totals don't reflect possession time. In fact, after those first 10 minutes, the Lightning controlled the puck for much of the rest of the night. But the Kings defended well without the puck and they were able to limit the number of the Lightning's Grade-A chances. The Lightning, given their possession advantage, were also guilty of not putting a lot of pucks on net - this was especially true during the second period.
Still, the Lightning did generate some chances after tying the game at two. But Jonathan Quick was excellent in turning aside those Lightning looks. At the other end, the Lightning settled into the strong, defensive structure that has been on display over the past few weeks. While Andrei Vasilevskiy faced a high volume of shots, the Lightning kept LA's dangerous looks to a minimum.
There were some frustrating developments in the third period for the Lightning. They dealt with two borderline penalty calls - the Kings netted a go-ahead power play goal on the second of those. Then, Cedric Paquette had a tying goal disallowed due to a high-stick deflection.
But the Lightning kept pressing and eventually knotted the score with 1:15 remaining. Following an Anthony Cirelli offensive zone faceoff win, Nikita Kucherov ripped a one-timer into the top of the net.
The Lightning couldn't convert on a late power play that carried into overtime (Quick was excellent in preserving the tie). Then, in the shootout, Brayden Point and Stamkos scored to provide the Lightning with the second point.
On this night, the Lightning had to overcome a slow start and some 50-50 calls that went against them. But they still found a way to prevail.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1. Victor Hedman - Lightning. 29:05 TOI, a season-high.
2. Jonathan Quick - Kings. 35 saves.
3. Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Goal. SO winner.