TAMPA -- Bryan Little scored the game-winner with 4:08 left in the third period on Thursday as the Winnipeg Jets took a crucial 2-1 win over the Lightning at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
The teams entered the game tied for second place, six points behind Carolina in the Southeast Division. The Jets (11-11-1) pulled within four points as the Hurricanes lost to Montreal.
Little slid down the line to poke a puck past Anders Lindback to seal it after the Lightning (10-13-1) had broken through earlier in the period.
A brief lull in what had been constant defensive attentiveness allowed the Lightning's playmakers to tie the game, 1-1. With 13:03 left in the third period, Steven Stamkos blasted in his league-leading 18th goal of the season.
Winnipeg took a 1-0 lead with 9:55 left in the first period on the first goal of the season by center Eric Tangradi. Kyle Wellwood set up the goal when he rooted the puck out from along the left boards under duress and passed backwards to Tangradi, who was able to skate unopposed on goaltender Anders Lindback as the Lightning's Cory Conacher lost his stick.
Winnipeg controlled play in the neutral zone in the second period -- though Tampa Bay still created a few sparkling chances -- and maintained the lead through a 5-on-3 penalty kill. Tampa Bay looked a step slow throughout the long power play, but would have tied it had goaltender Al Montoya not recovered to make a sliding stop of a Stamkos slap shot from the near left post. It was the fourth shot Montoya faced on the full two-minute penalty kill, brought on when Paul Postma and Mark Stuart were whistled on the same play.
Winnipeg left wing Eric Tangradi scored his first goal of the season at 10:05 of the opening period.
NOTES: Lightning LW Ryan Malone (four goals, five points in 10 games) returned after missing 13 games with a lower-body injury. Malone, 33, had aggravated an existing injury on Feb. 10 during the team's typical pregame soccer drill. ... Entering Thursday, 19 players had scored for the Lightning. ... Tampa Bay entered the game leading the NHL with 81 goals and a 3.52 per-game average. ... Stamkos began the night leading the league in goals (17). He was second in points (34). He had a 10-game point streak snapped Tuesday in a win at New Jersey. ... Lightning prospect Brett Connolly was named the American Hockey League player of the month for February after recording seven goals and 15 points in 13 games. ... Winnipeg had 37 hits in a 4-1 loss at Florida on Tuesday. The Jets have twice reached that figure, which represents a season high. ... Winnipeg did not draw a penalty in the loss to the Panthers. The Winnipeg power play entered Thursday a league-worst 1-for-32 since Feb. 7.