Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning lose to Winnipeg in shootout, 4-3
WINNIPEG - The Tampa Bay Lightning managed to stave off mathematical elimination from the playoffs on Tuesday.
And Steven Stamkos found a way to stay in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy.
Stamkos scored a late third-period goal to cap a two-goal rally to force overtime before the Lightning fell 4-3 to the Jets in a shootout in front of a sold-out crowd of 15,004 at MTS Centre.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Marty St. Louis also scored in regulation for Tampa Bay, which fell to 1-4-2 in the past seven games. Ben Bishop finished with 33 saves before falling to 5-4 in shootouts in his career, allowing two of three to score in the skills competition.
Andrew Ladd had two goals and an assist and converted his shootout attempt, while Blake Wheeler had a goal and two assists for the Jets. Ondrej Pavelec finished with 24 saves for Winnipeg.
For Stamkos, he notched his 27th of the season, and though he has led the race for the Richard Trophy throughout most of the season, he trails Washington's Alex Ovechkin by one goal heading into the season's final five games. Stamkos has won the Richard Trophy two of the past three seasons.
Though he isn't on the lookout for an individual award, he does want to score goals to help his team, which is what he did on Tuesday with just his second in the past nine games.
“I think today was the result of playing the right way, not cheating and not hoping,'' Stamkos said. “I thought our line played well. We had chances, and when you bury those chances it's positive. The past couple of games before this, I think maybe I was guilty of pressing too much and cheating, so today we played a solid game, played the right way and you get rewarded.''
Once again, Tampa Bay fell behind early on a Ladd goal 1:23 into the game, converting a play started on an Eric Brewer turnover that led to a quick Jets transition that ended with Ladd slipping a wrist shot through the five-hole.
Winnipeg returned the favor at 10:27 when Ron Hainsey threw a blind pass from behind his net onto the stick of St. Louis, who one-timed the ill-advised pass past Pavelec to tie the game.
But in the second period, the Jets took control, scoring twice to increase their season total of outscoring the opposition 50-31 on the season during the middle 20 minutes.
The first came as Wheeler waited patiently as he cut across the top of the crease, then out-waited Bishop before finding a shooting lane at 8:37.
After Winnipeg had a goal waved off for interfering with the goaltender, Ladd notched his second of the game when his shot deflected off the stick of Keith Aulie and past Bishop with 2:06 left in the second.
That's when Lightning head coach Jon Cooper had a talk with the team, and in particular Stamkos, who had no shots on goal through the first two periods.
“We talked. He didn't have a shot in the Buffalo game (Sunday) and he had zero shots in the first two periods tonight,'' Cooper said. “We were trying to talk to him about, you need to shoot.''
After Labrie cut the lead with his second goal of the season, it opened the door for Stamkos, who came down the right wing side as Teddy Purcell and St. Louis drove the net to open up space before Stamkos put a wrist shot inside the far post at 11:17 of the third to make it 3-3.
“It was great to see him get one. He's long overdue and has had some big-time chances,'' Cooper said. “He's getting close, and at some point here you are going to see him break out and have some multiple-goal games.''
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