The Tampa Bay Lightning has moved within one stride of their second consecutive Stanley Cup Final.
The Lighting scored 53 seconds into overtime to beat the Pittsburgh Penguins, 4-3, and to take a 3-2 lead in the best of seven series. Tyler Johnson got credit for the goal when Jason Garrison’s shot caromed off of his back.
“It’s a lot of fun to be their coach,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “I’m not saying they don’t give you ulcers, but there is a quiet calm about that group. When they were down 2-0, it wasn’t panic. Nothing was going on but ‘let’s get the next one.’ We’ve just been in this situation too many times.”
Tampa Bay came back twice in the game after trailing 2-0 and 3-2 for the win. They also trailed 2-1 in games, and were badly being outplayed before finding a way to win despite the absence of goaltender Ben Bishop and forward Steven Stamkos.
The Penguins went ahead 1-0 when Brian Dumoulin scored with less than one second to go in the first period. They made it 2-0 when Patric Hornqvist scored 90 seconds into the second period. But Tampa Bay charged back, getting goals from Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov within 70 seconds.
Again, Pittsburgh scored late in the period on a goal by Chris Kunitz.
With 3:50 to play, Ryan Callahan hit a post, and the puck skirted just outside the goalmouth. But 34 seconds later, Kucherov scored his second goal on a wrap-around to score.
Kucherov leads the NHL in post-season scoring
It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the overtime was over quickly. The Lightning has now played four overtime games, winning three, and all of them have been over in a hurry. They beat the Islanders in 2:48 and 1:34. The Penguins won earlier in the series 40 seconds into overtime. Now the Lightning have won in less than a minute.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 30 shots to get his second straight win.
The Lightning can close out the series Tuesday night at home. If they do not, game seven will be in Pittsburgh on Thursday.