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Lightning wins 4th straight behind Vladislav Namestnikov’s hat trick

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Wait until they hear about this one back home.

That should happen sometime this morning when Vladislav Namestnikov skypes his father, former NHL player Evgeny Namestnikov, to tell him about a night when his scoring totals climbed from six goals to nine.

Namestnikov, 23, scored the first hat trick of his career in the Lightning’s 5-4 overtime victory over the Pittsburgh Penguins Friday night. He also scored the winner in a three-on-three overtime that withstood a challenge by the Penguins after time ran out.

Who would have thought it? Namestnikov has blossomed as a player in recent weeks after being promoted to a line with Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat. Namestnikov had two assists in each of the Lightning’s previous two games.

Still, he’s a relative newcomer to important ice time. He had played only 90 NHL games before Friday night, and he had scored only 15 goals. That he’s coming into his own now seems to speak again as to the youth of the Lightning.

“It’s fun to watch him,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “I’m happy for him. He’s had to fight for everything. It’s his time. He’s made a choice to be an NHL player. Give him the puck in overtime two years ago, and he probably gives it up and changes.

Said Namestnikov: “The more games you play in the NHL, the more comfortable you get. Confidence is everything.”

Namestnikov was the key Lightning player Friday night, but he wasn’t the only one. The Bolts took a 3-1 lead, then gave up three straight goals to the Penguins, who outshot the Lightning 40-25. Anton Stralman scored a goal with 4:39 to play to force overtime, however. Valtteri Filppula scored another, and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 36 of 40 shots.

“He’s a competitor,” Cooper said. “He’ll probably look back and say he gave up four goals. I’ll look back and say he won the game.”

The Lightning plays against the Panthers at home on Sunday.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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