Lightning goes to 3-0 with thrill ride of a victory

by Gary Shelton on October 19, 2016 · 0 comments

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Brayden Point scored the winning goal in a shootout./JAMES S. KING

Brayden Point scored the winning goal in a shootout.

Wednesday, 4 a.m.

Where do you start? Well, by catching your breath. You're going to need your wind before you can talk about this one.

When do you start? Well, by gathering your thoughts. By separating the come-from-behind triumph from the fall-from-ahead tragedy? By talking first about the goal from the  experienced star and later about the one from the talented newcomer.

With what moment do you start? Do you start with the lackadaisical third period? Or with the saving shot from an impossible angle? Do you start with the controversy of the shootout? Or with the unlikely hero who ended it.

Considering it was only the third game of the season, there were a lot of moments to go around. For a while, the game appeared to be lost. For a while, it appeared

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Stamos salvaged the game with a goal with 5.5 seconds to play./JAMES S. KING

Stamkos salvaged the game with a goal with 5.5 seconds to play.

to be won. There was overtime. There were heroes. There were villains. It was, in a word, cool.

That was the Tampa Bay Lightning's latest victory, a 4-3 decision over Florida that left the Bolts 3-0 on the season. All three victories have been come-from-behind affairs. It was wild, and it had good moments and bad moments and memorable moments. It was a video game. It was a light show. It was a thrill ride.

Take, for instance, forward Steven Stamkos (and aren't you glad he's still here). With 5.5 seconds to play, Stamkos scored the winning goal from an impossible angle, a shot from the baseline beside the goal. It forgave the worst period of the year by the Lightning, one in which they were fortunate to finish tied.

It's obviously not a shot that's going to go in a lot,” Stamkos said, “but you screw around with it before and after practice when you shoot at those tough angles and you catch one. It was nice to see that one go in. That was one of the better shots of my career.”

Who hits a shot like that when the clock is dying? Who salvages a game so late? It was

Ondrej Palat scored his first goal of the season.

Ondrej Palat scored his first goal of the season.

something like a Robin Hood moment, winning the archery contest with an incredible shot on his last try.

“There’s not many guys in the league that can do that, and when I say not many, you’re talking one hand,” said coach Jon Cooper. “Even then I don’t know if you’re even getting to the thumb. Special players with special abilities like that can do that and no bigger time than when we needed it because we clearly were leaking oil in that third period.”

Done yelling? Well, that brings us to the next big moment of the game, when Florida's Vincent Trocheck was in the middle of a shootout. He appeared to lose the puck backward — which would end the attempt — before putting it in the net. An official waved the shot off, and goalie Ben Bishop skated off. But a replay reversed the call, saying the puck had not gone backward.

“I thought he lost control of the puck and he went in a backward direction,” Stamkos said.

“You see the ref. He waves it off immediately before the puck goes in the net. I mean, Bish gave up on the play. The ref waved it off. He thought it was done. We all thought it was done.”

Tyler Johnson wins a face-off.

Tyler Johnson wins a face-off.

Still mad? Still spitting nails.

Then came the winner, after the unlikely choice of rookie Braden Point to take the shootout. Point, who said he never had a shootout in the minors, knocked in the winning goal, his first as a pro.

“I just tried to make the best of it,” Point said. “I just tried to relax. For sure, there were nerves. It was the first time I have ever done that in this league, so I was a little bit nervous but I just tried to make the best of it.”

Said Cooper: “I've seen him do it in practice. That's good enough for me.”

The Lightning is 3-0. Of course, they were 3-0 last year, but Cooper said this feels better.

“Last year's 3-0 was with smoke and mirrors,” he said.

The Lightning is home Thursday night against Colorado.

Bishop won his second game of the new season.

Bishop won his second game of the new season.

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