How the Lightning rallied late to beat the Kings in overtime

TAMPA — After reaching the official midpoint of the season outside a playoff position in the Eastern Conference standings, the Lightning approached Tuesday’s home game against the Los Angeles Kings as the beginning of a new season.

And despite digging themselves a familiar hole, falling behind two goals going into the third period, they opened the second half showing what they’re capable of if they stick to their game plan.

The Lightning (20-17-5, 45 points) rallied to force overtime, scoring a pair of goals in regulation’s final eight minutes, including a dramatic game-tying score from forward Brandon Hagel with 4:21 remaining. They then beat the Kings 3-2 on defenseman Nick Perbix’s game-winner — his first goal of the season — 2:03 into the 3-on-3 extra session.

“It’s just kind of a new season,” Hagel said. “Obviously, we can deal with the 41 games that have already happened. We are where we are. But it starts now. No one talks about how you started, it’s how you finish. For us in this room, it’s kind of a fresh start. We’ve got 41 games to make that push.”

The win was also the 500th NHL coaching victory for the Lightning’s Jon Cooper, who reached the mark in 839 games, third-fastest in league history behind only Scotty Bowman (825) and Bruce Boudreau (837). Cooper reached the 500-win milestone with one team faster than any other coach.

“Man, I never thought I’d coach one game in this league, let alone win 500,” Cooper said. “It sneaks up on you, I’ll tell you that.”

Here’s how the Lightning turned the game around for an important home win.

‘Just get one’

Though down by two goals entering the third, the Lightning still felt they had played well enough to get two points. In 5-on-5 play, they had a 22-12 advantagein scoring chances — including an 11-6 edge in high-danger chances — through the first two periods.

A Kings team (20-10-7, 47 points) that ranks second in scoring defense and third in fewest shots allowed bent but didn’t break, and on many nights this season, the Lightning folded in the third (2-15-2 when trailing after two periods going into the night).

“To be honest, I thought we were playing that game on our terms,” Cooper said. “It didn’t feel like we should have been (down 2-0), but we were and it was one of those games: Just get one, let’s just get one and see what happens.”

Fourth-line wing Tyler Motte then forced a neutral-zone turnover on the backcheck, then charged toward the front of the net, where Mikey Eyssimont found him from behind the goal line with a backhand pass through center Blake Lizotte’s legs and into the slot for his third goal of the season with 7:23 left in regulation.

The Hagel show

Take away an empty netter he scored on Thursday in Minnesota, and Hagel hadn’t scored in 20 games entering Tuesday’s contest, but after the Kings’ lead was cut to one, Hagel made the play of the game, scoring a determined goal with 4:21 left in regulation.

“I think I was fighting a little bit,” Hagel said of his 18-game goal-less drought.

“I think I’ve had plenty of Grade-A’s that I probably could have finished on and they just weren’t going in for me. But for myself, I try not to get frustrated and stick with it and do as much as I can and help this team win. Obviously, tonight I got a real goal.”

After taking a pass from Perbix at the right-wing wall, Hagel swept inside as he crossed the right dot, fighting off a Pierre–Luc Dubois backcheck with Carl Grundstrom fronting from the slot. He drifted past the defenders while skating backwards through the front of the crease before getting to his forehand and beating Cam Talbot inside the left post.

After he scored, Hagel dropped to one knee and screamed into the crowd in celebration.

“A little bit of fumble, stayed on my stick, was able to corral it and bring it to my forehand and put it in,” Hagel said. “The celebration, that just speaks volumes to the 18 games.”

Perbix with the winner

Perbix, who hadn’t scored a goal this season in 39 games entering the night, was the least likely of overtime heroes, but Hagel set him up. Hagel corralled a loose puck on a backcheck at the Kings blue line and sped up the ice on the rush, circled back, and fought off Dubois, who was all over him trying to wrestle the puck away.

When Jordan Spence also converged on him, Hagel made a behind-the-back pass to Perbix trailing. Perbix collected the puck off his skate, then gained an inside edge on Trevor Moore toward the net, and beat Talbot with a backhand for the game-winner.

With that, the Lightning had jumped into the eighth and final playoff position in the East with 45 points.

“I don’t find myself on breakaways too often, so honestly, nothing,” Perbix said when asked about his thought process on the goal. “Just kind of I guess took what the goalie gave me. ... It just kind of jumped off my foot, which ended up benefiting me and I got around the guy.”

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