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Jets defeat Lightning on Scheifele's OT goal

by Lonnie Herman

TAMPA -- Mark Scheifele tapped in a centering pass from Blake Wheeler 1:04 into overtime to lead the Winnipeg Jets to a 2-1 victory against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday night.

"It was a great pass by Wheeler," Scheifele said. "He was able to find my stick and I owe it all to him."

Tampa Bay seemed to have the momentum after it battled back from an early 1-0 deficit. Alex Killorn almost won the game seconds before Scheifele's goal, but his breakaway shot hit the goal post.

Jets goalie Al Montoya made 28 saves for his fourth win of the season; Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback finished with 34 saves, which exceeded his previous season high of 31 stops against the San Jose Sharks on Nov 21.

Tampa Bay had several good scoring chances in the third period and outshot the Jets 12-6, but Montoya kept the game tied.

"I thought Montoya played really strong," Winnipeg coach Claude Noel said after the Jets finished their season-long, six-game road trip. "He battled back hard."

It took the Lightning (17-11-1) nearly all of the second period to even the score at 1-1, but they tied the score at 19:58. Nate Thompson, who had just been banished from the faceoff circle to Montoya's right, took a pass from Radko Gudas and whacked the puck into the net for his second goal of the season.

Lindback kept the Lightning in the game earlier when he made a diving cross-crease stop on Dustin Setoguchi off a 2-on-1 rush.

The Jets (14-13-4) jumped out to an early lead when Wheeler deflected a shot from Jacob Trouba over Lindback's shoulder at 5:25 of the opening period. It was Wheeler's seventh goal of the season and 100th of his career.

Winnipeg dominated the first period, interrupting Tampa Bay's rushes and firing 15 shots on net to three for the Lightning. The Jets failed to convert on two power plays in the first and three in the game. Their power play is now in the midst of an 0-for-18 slump.

"There were different segments in the game," Noel said. "We were good in the first period and they had a good second period. That late second period goal could have unnerved us, but we regrouped well. We had some people play hard. It was a really solid game."

The Lightning continue to search for offense. With one goal Saturday, they now have managed 14 goals through the past eight games.

"I think offensively, a lot of us are fighting it a little bit," Martin St. Louis said, "and you don’t play with swagger and confidence when you are fighting it."

Lightning coach Jon Cooper thought that his team kicked away an opportunity for a win by not shooting enough early.

"Nine shots through 31 minutes," Cooper said. "It's not like we didn't have our legs. We just didn't shoot pucks.

"If you want to sit there and just play keep-away and not shoot pucks, it's not going to work for you," Cooper said. "There was a clear distinction between the first 30 minutes and the last 30 minutes. In the last 30 minutes we got everyone involved and were shooting pucks from everywhere. It was the tale of two games and I thought we had ample chances to win the game in regulation and one chance to win it in overtime. Here's the thing … we turned a 60-minute game into a 30-minute game."

Winnipeg finished with a 4-2-0 record on the road trip.

"3-3 would not have felt very good," Noel said. "4-2 is a lot more comforting for us. It would have been disappointing to go home 3-3."

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