WINNIPEG -- There's the easy way and the way the Winnipeg Jets did it Tuesday night.
Entering the third period with a 3-1 lead, the Jets gave up a pair of goals and had to eke out a shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning when captain Andrew Ladd scored the game-winner.
It wasn't technically a hat trick - Ladd scored a pair during the game - but Jets fans will take it.
The victory was the Jets' 22nd of the season, giving them 46 points on the season, tied for the eighth and final playoff position with the New York Rangers, who lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 4-2 earlier in the evening. It was also the Jets' fourth win in a row, their longest winning streak this season. The Jets have five games remaining, one fewer than the Rangers.
It was just the third shootout of the season for the Jets and their second win in that situation. It was the fourth for the Lightning, who fell to 1-3.
Some may have been surprised when winger Mike Santorelli came out for the Jets' second attempt in the shootout, but they shouldn't have been. With a shootout scoring percentage of 50 percent, he's the Jets' leader in that department. He shot low and scored, setting the stage for Ladd's winner. Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec stopped both shots he faced, neither of which came from Steven Stamkos, Martin St. Louis or Vincent Lecavalier.
"(Santorelli) is pretty nasty in the shootout," said Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler, who had a goal and two assists on the night.
Jets coach Claude Noel concurred, saying his coaching staff had done their homework on Santorelli.
"He's been a scorer his whole career. You'd have to be asleep at the wheel to not know he was a scorer in Florida," he said.
Santorelli scored a career-high 20 goals for the Panthers in the 2010-11 season. He was picked up on waivers on the trade deadline this year.
For his part, the Vancouver native said he was just glad to be able to contribute.
"I was hoping I'd get the chance to get out there and do it. It's probably one of the most important goals I've scored, especially at this time of year," he said.
Santorelli claims to not know his shootout scoring percentage but admits it has been brought up to him in the dressing room once or twice.
"I don't want to look at it and jinx myself," he said with a laugh. "I had a couple of moves in mind and I just decided to go with one. If you second guess yourself, you'll miss."
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said the MTS Centre can be a tough rink in which to play.
"The crowd's right into it. There's a reason why these guys win at home. It's a great environment to play in. But I thought we had our chances," he said. "It was the second period that was a real letdown. We just started getting back to the old ‘too cute' and didn't get enough pucks to the net and then the penalties sucked a little bit of momentum away from us."
The Jets got the start they wanted when Bryan Little stripped Eric Brewer at the Lightning blueline and started a three-on-two. Ladd converted Wheeler's pass for his team-leading 17th of the year at 1:23 of the first period.
Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey deserved an assist on the next goal, but the NHL doesn't award assists for helping the opponent score. His attempted clearing pass from behind his net could hardly have been teed up better for St. Louis, whose one-timer beat an unsuspecting Pavelec for his 12th of the season.
The first power play of the game didn't come until six minutes into the second period, when Jets center Olli Jokinen was nabbed for hooking Steven Stamkos.
Zach Bogosian likely saved a goal when he picked off a pass intended for Stamkos standing alone at the side of the net.
The Jets took a 2-1 lead midway through the second after Ladd outworked Victor Hedman along the boards and passed to Wheeler, who outwaited Ben Bishop so long he was practically in the corner when he took his shot. It was Wheeler's 16th goal of the year.
The Jets looked to have taken a 3-1 lead when Grant Clitsome's slapshot beat Bishop at 13:02, but it was waved off because Ladd was ruled to have made contact with Bishop. Replays showed he didn't, prompting several minutes of unhappy chants from the sellout crowd of 15,003.
Ladd took control of the situation when he took a pass from Wheeler and snapped one by Bishop from the top of the circle, giving the Jets a 3-1 lead.
The Lightning pulled to within one with 14:41 left to go in the third when former Manitoba Moose Pierre-Cedric Labrie banged home a loose puck during a scramble in front of Pavelec.
Stamkos tied the game with his 27th of the season on a shot from the top of the circle with less than nine minutes to go in the third.
The Jets desperately needed the win as several teams ahead of them - the Washington Capitals, the New York Islanders and the Ottawa Senators - all posted wins Tuesday, too.
NOTES: With their 7-2 victory over Florida on April 11, the Jets marked their fourth three-game winning streak of the season. They do not have a single four-game winning streak this year. ... Since relocating from Atlanta prior to the 2011-12 season, the Jets have yet to have a single player record a hat trick. ... Lightning winger Stamkos has 26 goals on the season, good for second place in the race for the Rocket Richard trophy, trailing Alexander Ovechkin's 27. ... If the Lightning's defense was as good as their offense, they're likely be firmly ensconced in a playoff spot. They rank third in the NHL in goals scored, with a 3.14 per game average, or 131 overall. ... Press box seats were at a premium for Jets players not in the lineup tonight. Forwards Nik Antropov and Anthony Peluso and defenseman Tobias Enstrom are out with injuries. Rearguards Derek Meech, Jacob Trouba and Arturs Kulda and winger Antti Miettinen were healthy scratches. ... The only Lightning player not in the lineup was center Tom Pyatt.