TAMPA — The Lightning have certainly struggled at home of late, going all of 2-5-0 in last seven games at Amalie Arena prior to Tuesday night’s meeting with Ottawa.
So, when a 3-1 second-period lead evaporated there was little reason to think the home woes would not continue.
Anthony Cirelli and Andrei Vasilevskiy did something about that.
Cirelli’s goal with 19 seconds remaining in overtime, of the highlight-reel variety in which he flew into the Ottawa zone, blew past Nick Paul and put a forehand past Senators’ goalie Marcus Hogberg while crashing into cage, lifted Tampa Bay to a 4-3 decision.
“I knew there wasn’t much time left,” said Cirelli, who had two goals called back earlier this season due to making contact with the goaltender. “I was just trying to go for it and I was lucky I had some speed going through there. I was a little nervous (about drawing a penalty for colliding with Hogberg). I didn’t want to slide into him too hard because I knew there was a chance it could get called back.”
Thirty seconds into overtime, Vasilevskiy did his part by stoning Jean-Gabriel Pageau on a breakaway. The play was a byproduct of a run-and-gun opening to the extra session and the Lightning got caught in the offensive zone.
“I think I was a little late on the lines because we were getting chances and I think I got caught up in the game a little bit as well,” said coach Jon Cooper. “We missed an assignment, but we need our guy to make a save and Vasy has done that for us. That was a huge one tonight.”
The Lightning led 2-1 after 20 minutes on goals by Nikita Kucherov and Cedric Paquette sandwiched around a goal by Ottawa’s Mark Borowiecki.
Tampa Bay upped the lead to 3-1 on Brayden Point’s goal at 3:32. Only 29 seconds later, Ottawa came within one and by the time the period was over the Lightning found themselves in a tie game.
A Kucherov turnover led to the tying goal by Anthony Duclair and he saw the ice for only one shift in the third period.
“It was just our decision,” said Cooper, when asked if Kucherov’s limited ice time was due to the turnover. “As a group we put ourselves in a position where we wanted to win this game and that’s what we went with.”
The Lightning dominated the first several minutes of the third period period, but had nothing to show for it. They were forced to kill a four-minute high-sticking call on Steven Stamkos at 9:51 and not only killed it off, but did not allow Ottawa a shot on goal until 30 seconds remained.
The Senators got off three quality chances with Vasilevskiy coming up big each time.
“It was an outstanding job,” said Cooper. “We started leaking oil a little bit because there are four minutes to kill and guys are getting gassed out there. But Vasy was there when we needed him. If you want to win you have to kill those off.”
It looked like overtime might not materialize when Yanni Gourde, down low, took a feed from Alex Killorn and was alone against Hogberg. Playing only his sixth NHL game and looking for his first win, Hogberg made a left pad save to keep the game even and ultimately get his team a point.
The Lightning, who improved to 4-3 in overtime, are now 9-7-1 at home and 17-12-3 overall.
Next up is Dallas at Amalie Arena on Thursday at 7 p.m.