TAMPA, Fla. — Over the course of an 82-game season, there are bound to be a few victories that stand out more than the rest.
Mark down Tuesday as one of those occasions for the Golden Knights.
Trailing by two goals on the road against the Stanley Cup favorite, the Knights emptied their emotional tank and rallied for a 3-2 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena.
Alex Tuch was the only player for either team to convert in the shootout, snapping the Knights’ franchise-record four-game losing skid.
“I think we played desperate. We played pissed off and it really helped our team to success,” Tuch said. “It’s huge momentum. I know we lost the past four games before this, but even though it was in a shootout, I thought we played hard.”
Valentin Zykov scored his first goal with the Knights since he was claimed off waivers Dec. 29 at 5:22 of the third period to tie the score 2-2. Cody Eakin added a breakaway goal in the second that kick-started the comeback.
The Knights reached the 30-win mark and headed to snowy Detroit for the final game of the four-game road trip with a little more bounce in their step.
“It just seems like things didn’t go our way, and tonight, playing the best team and obviously coming out with a win is a good confidence booster and a good feeling,” goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury said. “We’ve had some good divisional games that meant a lot, but this one feels good.”
Brayden Point tallied his team-high 31st goal on a power-play in the first period for Tampa Bay, which had lost once at home since Nov. 29.
Mathieu Joseph put the Lightning ahead 2-0 when he scored at 14:19 of the second period when he jammed the puck past Fleury during a scramble in front.
Officials initially waved off Joseph’s goal due to goaltender interference, but Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper successfully challenged that Joseph was pushed into Fleury by Knights defenseman Colin Miller and the call was overturned.
“I would say we just kept playing,” Zykov said. “We were not bothered by the goal. We just kept pushing to play and I think it helped us.”
The Knights killed off two penalties in the third period — Tampa Bay’s top-ranked power play finished 1-for-5 — and then possessed the puck for nearly all five minutes of the overtime, outshooting the Lightning 6-0 in the extra session.
William Karlsson had the best chance in OT when his shot slipped through Andrei Vasilevskiy, but the puck dribbled wide of the crease.
Fleury stopped all three shootout attempts before Tuch slipped a shot past Vasilevskiy (35 saves) to end yet another thriller between the clubs. Three of their four meetings have been decided by one goal.
“I usually go to the backhand,” Tuch said. “He kind of cheated over there, and I just tried to pull it over and get it up over the pads.”
Eakin gave the Knights life at 16:28 of the second period, as defenseman Jon Merrill made a spectacular stretch pass from behind his own net to spring Eakin for his 14th goal.
Zykov tied the score 2-2 in the third when he finished off an odd-man rush after Karlsson dangled the puck through his legs and fed his new linemate for his fifth career NHL goal.
“It’s definitely what we needed,” coach Gerard Gallant said. “I thought we’ve played pretty good hockey in that stretch, but tonight when you play the top team in the league in their building and battle hard and compete hard and play our game, it’s definitely a confidence builder.”
1. Carpenter update. Florida native Ryan Carpenter got to play in his home state but was involved in a scary play with 2:17 remaining in the second period when he was pile-drived into the boards by Tampa Bay’s Cedric Paquette. Carpenter had to be helped off the ice, and Golden Knights coach Gerard Gallant did not have an update on his condition after the game.
2. Nothing serious. Knights center Paul Stastny appeared to injure himself on a faceoff early in the second period and went to the locker room for treatment. He returned later in the period and finished with 21:35 of ice time, third-most among forwards. However, Stastny’s seven-game points streak came to an end.
3. Stop sign. Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy preserved a point for his team thanks to a sequence of saves with a little more than six minutes remaining in the third period. He made two stops on Cody Eakin, then dove across the crease to keep out Max Pacioretty’s rebound attempt.
David Schoen Review-Journal