Throughout an 82-game season, some wins feel bigger than others. And the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Boston Bruins Monday night felt like the biggest win of the season.
Entering the divisional contest, the Bruins sat atop the NHL standings with a 13-1-2 record and 28 points through just 16 games. Their 32 goals against were the lowest among all NHL teams.
Coming off a win over the Edmonton Oilers who saw the Lightning rally from behind on three separate occasions, the Bolts were ready for a big, divisional matchup with Boston, a measuring stick game that would likely give a good indication of where the team stands with the 20-game mark right around the corner.
Tampa Bay had a strong start, controlling play over the first five minutes and capitalizing at the 6:39 mark of the opening frame with Tanner Jeannot netting his fourth goal of the season.
After Mikey Eyssimont made a nice stretch pass to Tyler Motte, the Lightning forward drove toward the net and drew a delayed holding penalty on Charlie McAvoy. But before the Bruins could touch the puck up and get a whistle, Jeannot won a battle on the doorstep and roofed a shot over Jeremt Swayman to give the Bolts an early 1-0 lead.
Boston responded just 3:16 later and evened the score 1-1 when David Pastrnak made a slick feed to Pavel Zacha in front of the Tampa Bay net before the forward fired home his seventh goal of the season to send both teams to their respective locker rooms for the first intermission with the game tied at one piece.
As a hard-fought second period was nearing its end, the Lightning grabbed a 2-1 lead with 29.2 seconds remaining as Nick Paul lit the lamp on the power play for his eighth goal of the campaign. After Steven Stamkos sent a backhand saucer pass to the point for Mikhail Sergachev, the defenseman kept his head up and fired a shot toward the stick of Paul, who redirected the puck past Swayman and sent his team to the locker room for the second intermission with a one-goal lead.
Following a strong start to the third period, the Bolts found themselves in a tie game when Pastrnak ripped a shot through traffic that beat Jonas Johansson and made it a 2-2 game.
And as Lightning fans have seen at different times throughout the season, their opponent followed up with a quick goal just 1:21 later with John Beecher netting his second goal of the year to give the Bruins a 3-2 lead with 12:13 remaining in regulation.
But in a period that showcased plenty of back-and-forth action, the Bolts weren’t ready to call it quits. Only 57 seconds after Beecher gave Boston the lead, Austin Watson responded with his first goal from him as a member of the Lightning.
Handling the puck behind the net in the offensive zone, Anthony Cirelli made a heads-up play and found Watson in the slot, allowing the big forward to rip a one-timer far side and past Swayman to even the score at three apiece.
With momentum back on Tampa Bay’s side, the team pushed to get the go-ahead goal, but instead it was Charlie Coyle who put Boston back up by one, scoring a late goal with just 3:51 remaining in regulation and making it a 4 -3 game.
The Lightning needed yet another response and got one in dramatic fashion when Stamkos netted the tying goal and forced overtime with 4.8 seconds left in the third period. With Johansson pulled for an extra attacker, Zacha gained possession in the Boston zone and quickly tried to flip the puck out of trouble.
But Victor Hedman made a tremendous play at the blue line, batting the puck out of midair with his right hand and again with the blade of his stick, just barely keeping the play onside. From there, Brandon Hagel gained possession near the right point and sat the puck along the boards for Kucherov, who feathered a beautiful backhand pass through a ton of traffic right onto the stick of Stamkos, allowing the Bolts captain to hammer his patented one-timer past Swayman and force overtime.
Entering the extra frame, Tampa Bay was winless in overtime this season. And not only were they winless. They had yet to record a single shot on goal in four overtime contests. Determined to change that, Stamkos won the opening faceoff and, after a quick whistle, also won the following neutral zone faceoff to ensure his team got possession.
After retreating back to his own zone, Hedman caught the Bruins in a change and sent a perfect stretch pass right onto the tape of Hagel at the Boston blue line.
Skating all alone on Swayman, Hagel fired a quick shot right through the five hole of the Bruins goaltender and sealed the 5-4 win for Tampa Bay.
Jonas Johansson earned his eighth win of the season with 23 saves on 27 shots against.
Bolts by the Numbers
- The Bolts recorded 23 points through the first 19 games of the 2022-23 season. This season, Tampa Bay has 22 points through their first 19 games.
- The Lightning won their first game overtime since December 3, 2022, versus Toronto. Tampa Bay had lost eight consecutive overtime games prior to Monday night.
- The Bolts scored on their first shot in five overtime games this season after being outshot 14-0 over their first four overtime contests.
- The Lightning recorded 19 shots on goal in the first period, the most they have taken in a single period this season. Their 46 shots overall also set a single-game high for the season.
- Steven Stamkos scored his fourth game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation, passing Alexander Selivanov (3) for the most in Lightning franchise history.
- Nikita Kucherov recorded one assist and is up to 28 points on the season, tied for the second-most among all NHL skaters.
- Victor Hedman picked up an assist and is up to 20 points on the season, the third-most among all NHL defensemen.
- Nick Paul scored his fifth power-play goal of the season. Only three NHL skaters have more.
- Brandon Hagel’s game-winning goal was his ninth tally of the season, second among all Lightning skaters behind only Nikita Kucherov (13).
- Jon Cooper: “We’ve kind of flipped the table here these last couple of games. You want to have an ability to come from behind. You don’t want to make it a practice of falling behind all the time. That’s happened to us in the last couple games, but guys have really dug in. There’s such a positive energy on the bench. Even when Boston scored tonight with three-plus (minutes) left, I think everyone on the bench felt like we were going to score again. We did take it down to the dying seconds, but the effort level from the guys these last few games – they’re working. And they’re being rewarded for it. It’s not always perfect and some of them are ugly, but I’m just really happy for the guys and the work they put in to pull that one out.”
- Steven Stamkos on Mikey Eyssimont: “That’s a guy you don’t want to play against. I don’t even want to practice against him to be honest with you, because he’s that intense all the time, which is a great thing, obviously. He brings that energy and for a guy that has bounced around a little bit, I think he’s really comfortable here. He fits in with the group that we have, and you see the effort. It’s contagious. “He’s a heck of a player that’s carving out a really nice role on our team and, like I said, we’re glad he’s on our team.”
- Jon Cooper on Mikey Eyssimont: “He’s a menace. You really want to have the menaces on your side and he’s all over the place. “He doesn’t stop and he’s fearless.”
- Steven Stamkos on Nikita Kucherov’s assist on the game-tying goal: “There’s only maybe one other guy in the league that can make that pass, if that.”
Krenner’s Three Stars
- Brandon Hagel
- Mikey Eyssimont
- Steven Stamkos
Lightning Look Ahead
Wednesday, November 22 vs. Winnipeg Jets, 7 pm ET, AMALIE Arena – Buy Tickets
Friday, November 24 at Carolina Hurricanes, 8 pm ET, PNC Arena
Monday, November 27 at Colorado Avalanche, 9 pm ET, Ball Arena