TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning continue to struggle in the second period. The third period is another story.
The Lightning left the ice at the Tampa Bay Times Forum after 40 minutes trailing Ottawa 4-3 after allowing the Senators to score four times in the second period, the continuation of a trend that has seen Tampa Bay outscored 10-3 in the middle period.
But Tampa Bay got a pair of goals by Ryan Malone and an empty-netter from Thomas Pyatt in the third period to rally for a 6-4 victory on Friday night, handing the Senators their first loss of the season.
The Lightning lead the NHL with 11 third-period goals. Coach Guy Boucher is trying to figure out why his team plays so poorly in the second period and so well in the third.
"We just get away from everything that works and it's been four games now," Boucher said. "Coming into the second period we take penalties and we turn the puck over at their blue line. We don't play 200 feet of hockey and it cost us. It cost us momentum, it cost us having to come back or not being ahead because we're not on the same page."
And why does his team play so well in the final 20 minutes?
"That's character," Boucher said. "Here's the big thing, here's what I notice about our players, they are character guys."
Malone tied the game 3:39 into the third period when he deflected a shot by Sami Salo past Ben Bishop. The game-winner came with 7:02 remaining when Victor Hedman's point shot deflected off Vincent Lecavalier's stick and came to Malone at the right of the crease. Malone quickly buried it, delighting the sellout crowd of 19,204.
"We go back to the game plan of just playing simple hockey," Malone said of his team's third-period success.
The Lightning jumped on top on Matt Carle's power-play goal just 69 seconds into the contest. Tampa Bay had four extra-man opportunities in the opening period but were able to convert just once.
Then came the second period, when the Senators outshot the Lightning 16-5 and beat Anders Lindback four times.
Eric Condra tied the game with a breakaway goal at 4:11, and the game remained even at 1-1 until the teams combined for five goals in a 3:40 span late in the period. Jason Spezza scored on a power-play wrister at 14:30 and Eric Karlsson's point shot found the back of the net 15 seconds later.
Steven Stamkos got one goal back for the Lightning, but Kyle Turris completed a beautiful tic-tac-toe passing play at 17:30, putting a pass from Daniel Alfredsson into a wide-open net.
However, the Lightning made it a one-goal game just 40 seconds later when Hedman moved into the high slot, took a pass from Stamkos and beat Bishop through a screen from 35 feet.
"We let them back in it, and that's the frustrating part," Ottawa forward Chris Neil said.
Malone got the tying and go-ahead goals before Tom Pyatt added an empty-netter with 41.7 seconds remaining to give Tampa Bay its third win in four games and second in as many home games
Anders Lindback, starting his third game in goal for the Lightning, stopped 32 shots on the way to his second win.
Six Tampa Bay players had multi-point games, including rookie Cory Conacher, who had two assists. Conacher has found the scoresheet for Tampa Bay in every game this season.
The Senators, who won 3-1 at Florida on Thursday for their third victory in as many games, couldn't survive the Lightning's barrage.
"For the most part, I thought they controlled the game and had the puck way more than we did," Senator coach Paul MacLean said. "They flat outplayed us.
"I didn't like anybody on our team tonight. I don't think there are any individuals that were better or worse than others."
Bishop, making his first start of the season as Craig Anderson got the night off, made 25 saves.
"They're probably the best team I've played against," Bishop said. "Every shot, there's somebody in front of you or somebody tipping the puck. It's tough trying to find the puck when they're tipping pucks left and right."
Lecavalier was honored before the opening faceoff for playing in his 1,000th NHL game Monday on Long Island. Lecavalier, who received several gifts including an engraved silver stick, is the 280th player in League history to reach the milestone.
The Lightning continue their five-game homestand when Philadelphia comes to town on Sunday. The Senators host Pittsburgh on Sunday night.