TAMPA — The Lightning’s first game against the Maple Leafs since Tampa Bay eliminated Toronto in seven games in the first round of the 2021-22 postseason was a reminder of how talent-rich and evenly matched the teams are.
Saturday night’s meeting at Amalie Arena was back and forth, but constant whistles, 11 combined power plays and two goals overturned by video review robbed the game of any flow. Though the Lightning emerged victorious in overtime, 4-3, they couldn’t take away much from the win.
“The only benefit was we got an extra point,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Just a weird game.”
Forward Alex Killorn scored 33 seconds into the extra session, giving Tampa Bay (15-8-1) five wins in six overtime games this season and capping a night that began with a pregame ceremony to honor captain Steven Stamkos, who became the first player in team history to reach 1,000 career points in the Lightning’s previous game, Thursday night in Philadelphia.
Killorn scored on the first shift of overtime, intercepting a pass by Maple Leafs forward Auston Matthews in the Lightning zone, pushing the puck forward to forward Anthony Cirelli, then streaking along the right wing. Cirelli, playing his first game since offseason shoulder surgery, brought the puck through the neutral zone and hit Killorn at the top of the right circle.
Killorn drifted toward the outside of the right dot and hesitated slightly before unloading a wrist shot from a tight angle that handcuffed Toronto goaltender Matt Murray on the short side.
“It may have not been the best spot to shoot on the ice, but just figured I would give it a try,” Killorn said. “Tony was going to the net, so I just figured he may get the rebound. … If you want to win, you’ve got to take chances.”
The game went to overtime after a Maple Leafs go-ahead goal was taken off the scoreboard with 4:04 remaining in regulation. A video review ruled that forward John Tavares kicked the puck into the net in the middle of a crowd in the crease.
Toronto forward Mitchell Marner, who set a franchise record for most consecutive games with a point at 19, tied the score at 3 with his second goal of the night on a power play with 8:05 left in regulation, the last of three power-play goals the teams combined to score in the third period.
After allowing a shorthanded goal early in the game, the Lightning power play scored two goals in the first 4:34 of the third period to take a 3-2 lead. The Lightning have scored at least one power-play goal in 10 straight games.
Forward Ross Colton scored the go-ahead goal, launching a one-timer from below the right circle for his second goal in as many games.
Forward Nikita Kucherov tied the score at 2 1:51 into the third period on a 4-on-3 advantage. Kucherov calmly skated to the top of the right circle and wristed a shot past a Corey Perry screen and by Murray on the short side.
The Lightning received key contributions from their bottom six forwards. Vladislav Namestnikov scored his first goal of the season on the newly shaped third line centered by Cirelli. Perry, playing in his 1,200th career game, set up scoring opportunities 5-on-5 to go along with his two power-play assists.
“It’s difficult when there’s so many power plays and teams stack up, and so you need to have these lines that help tilt the ice a bit,” Cooper said.
Playing in his first game since Game 6 of the Stanley Cup final June 26, Cirelli had two primary assists while also contributing on the penalty kill.
“It felt great,” Cirelli said. “Just to be out there with the guys playing in a game was awesome. It’s been awhile, so I was kind of nervous at the beginning, but once I got a couple of my first shifts in there, it was nice.”
Before the game, Stamkos was presented with a Scotty Cameron putter and a 6-liter bottle of Opus One wine from Killorn and defenseman Victor Hedman, and Lightning owner Jeff Vinik gave him a commemorative engraved gold hockey stick. Mascot Thunderbug presented engraved gold ministicks to Stamkos’ 3-year-old son, Carter, and 1-year-old son, Chase.
“I’m just happy to be able to tell people that I’ve played with him and I’m good friends with him,” Killorn said of Stamkos. “It’s just great to see his family out there, such a beautiful family, and it was a really awesome moment watching all of his memories from his time with the Lightning.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at email@example.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.
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