TAMPA, Fla. – Those in attendance at Amalie Arena on Monday night were treated to a playoff-type atmosphere with the Lightning and the league-best Bruins putting on a show for 60-plus minutes.
A 5-4 Tampa Bay win in overtime could not have been more thrilling for the fans wearing blue and white, who did their best to drown out those wearing black and gold in a house divided.
Steven Stamkos’ goal with five seconds remaining in the third period to tie the game and Brandon Hagel scoring on the only shot in overtime to reverse (at least for now) the Bolts’ fortune in the extra session made for a couple of dramatic moments.
Of course, it is only November. Still, the Lightning lost three straight and were blanked in back-to-back games before turning things around at Chicago last Thursday.
“The effort level from the guys these last few games, they are working, and they are being rewarded for it,” said coach Jon Cooper.
Cooper’s team has flipped from a three-game skid to a three-game win streak, which the Bolts take into Wednesday night’s game at Amalie against Winnipeg.
Though the Bruins had only four shots on goal in the third period, they scored on three of them and took the lead in the final minutes. Though in less dramatic fashion, the Lightning (9-6-4) came from behind to pull out last Saturday’s 6-4 win over visiting Edmonton as well as the 4-2 in win the Windy City.
“You want to have the ability to come from behind,” said Cooper, whose team had lost eight straight in overtime dating to last year and was 0-4 this season without recording a shot on net. “You don’t want to make a practice of falling behind all of the time. That has happened to us the last couple of games, but the guys have really dug in.”
One guy who has dug in of late is Mikey Eyssimont. He had perhaps his best game in a Lightning uniform Monday night when he had six shots on goal, his high since being acquired at last year’s trade deadline. He recorded an assist, dished out four hits and was otherwise humming on all cylinders.
“He’s a menace and you really want to have menaces on your side,” said Cooper. “He’s fearless and you couple that with his skill. He can really hold on to the puck and he’s the type of kid that draws a crowd. It is great to see his growth here the past few weeks.”
The Lightning, who are 6-2-2 at home, seek to extend their win streak to four. The Jets have won three straight and six of seven. They have scored at least five goals in five of those six wins. It should be a good matchup with the Jets on a roll and the Lightning feeling pretty good about themselves since the three-game slide.
“When you lose three games in a row, it is not very fun to come to the rink,” said Hagel. “We know we are a better team than that. Everybody has dug in and we are kind of finding our identity and sticking with it for a full 60 minutes. Obviously, stringing some points together is what we need.”
After Wednesday night’s game the Lightning embark on a three-game trip that gets underway Friday night at Carolina. The Bolts then travel to Colorado and Arizona for back-to-back encounters on Monday and Tuesday. They return home next Thursday to face Pittsburgh.
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