TAMPA, FL - A two-goal performance by Ondrej Palat trumped another two-goal performance by Benoit Pouliot as the Tampa Bay Lightning edged the Oilers 3-2 on Thursday night at Amalie Arena.
Palat’s tally (11th of the season and 36th point) with 8:01 to go in the third period stood up as the game-winner as the Lightning sniper rifled a snapshot over Ben Scrivens’ blocker-side shoulder. The slim defeat was Edmonton’s third consecutive loss and second in a row to start the road trip, despite leading Thursday's game 1-0 and 2-1.
“In the third, Tampa Bay cranked it up a notch,” Coach Todd Nelson said post-game. “We were still doing the right things, but they buried their chances and we didn’t. We’re generating chances tonight and I liked the way we played. If we keep on generating chances, those goals will go in.”
“That’s a tough one,” Pouliot added. “I think we out-worked them, out-played them the whole game. They had some breaks and scored three goals on them. They’re a good team, it was a good game, we just lost it at the end a bit and it cost us.”
A phenomenal individual effort by Ryan Nugent-Hopkins set up the Oilers first goal of the night, scored shorthanded by Pouliot for his fifth tally in the last four games. RNH accelerated past Lightning defenceman Anton Stralman and cut to the net for an attempt, with Ben Bishop making the save before Pouliot deposited the rebound to make it 1-0 Edmonton 13:52 into the first period.
“It was a great play,” Nelson said. “We saw the situation from the bench and we all yelled ’try him and use your speed’ because he had a big burst of speed. It was just a great play by him and (Pouliot) did a great job following the play up.”
The goal gave Pouliot, one of three former Lightning players on the Oilers roster (Teddy Purcell, Keith Aulie), his ninth of the season and 14th point in 27 games. The big winger has been one of the team’s top contributors since he returned from his broken foot. The well-deserved assist was RNH’s 26th point of the season as his all-star season continues.
Tampa Bay’s captain drew them even 7:10 into the middle frame as Steven Stamkos pounced on a loose puck in the Oilers zone and scorched a wrist shot high glove side on Ben Scrivens to make it a 1-1 game. The snipes was Stamkos’ 26th goal of the season, tying him with the Rangers’ Rick Nash and Stars’ Tyler Seguin for the League lead.
Pouliot’s red-hot play continued as he struck again in the final minute of the middle frame, knocking in a shot on the power play for his second of the night and sixth in the last four. Taylor Hall and RNH assisted on the PPG, as Hall picked up his team-leading 28th point and Nugent-Hopkins secured his second helper of the game and 27th point.
“It’s been good,” Pouliot said of his hot streak. “The guys I’m playing with right now, it’s really clicking, either PK, PP or five-on-five. We got chances and we got goals on them, so it’s good, but it’s just a matter of trying to win those games, and they’re not easy to win. It’s two points that were there for us, and we messed it up at the end.”
“He’s going well right now and doing a lot of good things,” Nelson added. “He’s scoring goals going to the dirty areas and I think that’s a good example for everyone else to follow moving forward.”
The Lightning battled right back early in the third period and got the equalizer from their top unit as Palat knocked in a rebound for his 10th of the season and 35th point. Assists went to Nikita Kucherov (43rd point) and Tyler Johnson (47th point). Johnson was a late addition to the lineup, listed as day-to-day with a lower body injury. He also picked up a helper on Palat’s game-winner for his team-leading 48th point.
It’s a short post-game flight for the Oilers as they hop from Tampa to Sunrise and begin preparing for Saturday’s game against the Panthers. The four-game road trip wraps up on Tuesday in Washington D.C. as the Oil will look to sweep their season series against the Capitals.