Marty St. Louis skated down right wing, cut toward the net, then spun himself around before stopping in his tracks and lifting a backhander into the net to the roar of a sold-out Forum on Wednesday night.
The goal itself won't count on his stats and will be a blip on the radar in the box score compared to the one he scored earlier in the game. But to the Lightning, it meant as much as any goal he might score at any point this season as his shootout conversion lifted Tampa Bay to a 4-3 victory against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, who had an eight-game winning streak snapped the previous night.
The victory snapped a four-game winless stretch for Tampa Bay and kept the Lightning within two points of the Washington Capitals for the Southeast Division lead. It also marked the first time since Feb. 23 that the Lightning scored more than two goals.
Dwayne Roloson stopped 28 shots and all three Chicago shooters in the shootout to pick up the victory, while Steven Stamkos matched St. Louis with a goal and an assist. Teddy Purcell also scored for Tampa Bay, which led 3-1 at one point.
St. Louis rescued the victory for the Lightning by doing something he had never tried until Wednesday morning, racing back out to the ice following a team meeting, sans jersey, to practice the move on goaltender Mike Smith before the morning skate ended.
"I guess it's like a chef coming up with a recipe. Sometimes you experiment,'' St. Louis joked.
But in all seriousness, St. Louis mentioned after the All-Star game skills competition, in which he scored twice during the elimination competition, that perhaps he needed to be more loose and just try to be creative, as he's done in the past with his move where he backs in and lifts a shot over the goaltender. Wednesday's move was a bit of a hybrid of that approach.
"That's exactly the approach I had, just have fun with it,'' said St. Louis, who was 5-for-27 lifetime in shootouts, including 0-for-3 this season, entering the game. "Keep it simple and don't regret that you tried something. I tried something. I wasn't scared to try. And even if I didn't score, I wasn't scared to try and I could look myself in the mirror and say that I tried. Sometimes, I keep it too simple and I don't try the stuff that makes me sneaky, I guess.''
The decision to use St. Louis, along with Stamkos and Vinny Lecavalier, came one game after Tampa Bay coach Guy Boucher received a fair amount of criticism for using Adam Hall and Dominic Moore - the team's most successful shootout players this season - in a 2-1 shootout loss to Washington.
"We exhausted them as opportunities at the beginning of the year and we never got anything out of it, so I changed it and went with some other guys and we won like that,'' Boucher said. "They knew in advance (they were going) and I had them practice. So they were prepared for it and they went with their best moves and so I congratulated them, because there's a difference between being scared to lose and acting on it and being hungry to win. That's an attitude and it's not just in regulation time and overtime, it's in the shootout, too.''
Tampa Bay came out hungry, outshooting Chicago 10-5 in the first period and building a 2-1 lead, getting a goal from Stamkos, his league-leading 42nd but first since Feb. 23, on a wrist shot from the slot and another from St. Louis with 15.6 seconds left for his 25th of the season, marking his franchise record of scoring 25 or more goals in eight consecutive seasons.
Purcell made it 3-1 with a backhander 1:20 into the second period, but Chicago answered on a Patrick Sharp goal at 9:39 of the second and pulled even when Jonathan Toews deflected a point shot for his third point of the night 3:30 into the third period.
Tribune's 3 Stars
1. Lightning C Steven Stamkos - Scored one, set up another and had seven shots
2. Blackhawks C Jonathan Toews - A goal, three points and seven shots
3. Lightning RW Marty St. Louis - Goal, assist and shootout-deciding goal