Steven Stamkos called it an “uncharacteristic hat trick.” Of course it was easy to joke about since he ended up notching the overtime game-winner for the Tampa Bay Lightning in a 4-3 decision over the Buffalo Sabres Saturday night.
His first goal came with 14 seconds left in the first period, tying the game, 2-2.
He scored the game’s next goal, albeit for the Buffalo Sabres.
Midway through the third Cory Conacher was being called for a hooking penalty. With the delayed call, the Lightning pulled goaltender Ben Bishop for the extra attacker.
Only problem was a pass from Stamkos off the boards bounced over a defenseman’s stick, sailed down the ice and into the Lightning net.
It counted as a goal, credited to Conacher who was the last Sabre to touch the puck, giving Buffalo a momentary 3-2 lead.
“I’ve seen it a couple times, never live,” Stamkos said. “You see it on the highlights. I’m sure I’ll make them now and the un-top 10 but as soon as it went over our D’s stick I knew it had a pretty good chance to go in.
“It’s a tough bounce but we responded. We got a power play after that and tied it up and that was a good push back from us.”
The Lightning scored on the ensuing power play, which turned into a 5-on-3 after Mike Weber was called for cross checking.
Stamkos then scored his real second goal of the game at 1:53 of overtime on another power-play opportunity.
“That can be a big momentum shift, a goal like that in a one-goal game,” Stamkos said of the own goal. “Fortunately we got a 5-on-3 there and capitalized. A bad bounce and we got a good break getting the 5-on-3. You’ve got to take advantage of those when given the opportunity.
“An uncharacteristic hat trick but you don’t want to score too many of those. Obvioulsy we were lucky enough to find a way to respond and get the two points and move on. There’s no easy games. These guys are a desperate team. They have a lot of young guys who are playing hard and working hard and they played well tonight.”
According to Elias Sports, Conacher became the first player to score a goal on his own delayed penalty since Viktor Tikhonov did it with Phoenix on March 21, 2009 against Vancouver.
And it wasn’t the first own goal of the year. Boyd Gordon of Edmonton was credited with a goal on a delayed played. That was when Chicago’s Patrick Kane’s pass went into his own net on Jan. 12.
What’s wrong with Ville Leino?
That remains a mysterious question.
The forward was a scratch Saturday night. In his last game, Thursday at Nashville, he played only one full shift in the first period and left the game after experiencing what interim coach Ted Nolan said was lightheadedness.
“He got evaluated and he came to practice today and he was doing OK and then just before going on the ice he didn’t feel very well so he’s going to be back to the doctors and see exactly what’s going on,” Nolan said after the team’s morning skating on Saturday. “He’s still not ready to go.”
“He just felt it before the game. He had one shift. He went out felt a little woozy. He felt a little dizzy and it wasn’t, don’t quote me 100 percent but I don’t think he got hit. He was just out one shift and came back. ... When you’re talking about the head, it’s not like the elbow or knee or something, but your head so we have to be very, very cautious.”
The injury card continues to be full for the Sabres. The list includes: Chris Stewart (lower body, 12 games missed), Alexander Sulzer (upper body, eight games), Michal Neuvirth (lower body, seven games), Jhonas Enroth (lower body, six games), Zenon Konopka (back, three games), Tyler Myers (undisclosed, two games) and Torrey Mitchell (undisclosed, two games).
There was good news on the injury front as Zemgus Girgensons returned to the lineup after missing 11 games with an undisclosed injury. Centering a line with Cody Hodgson and Brian Flynn, Girgensons led the team with five shots.
If only Drew Stafford had made a bet with Jamie McBain.
The NCAA men’s hockey tournament got underway this weekend and Stafford’s alma mater (North Dakota) faced McBain’s alma mater (Wisconsin) in the Midwest Regional semifinal.
While Wisconsin was the No. 1 seed in the region and ranked fourth nationally heading into the tournament, it was North Dakota that earned the win on Friday night. North Dakota beat Ferris State, 2-1 in double overtime Saturday to advance to the Frozen Four.
“I don’t have any regrets but the one thing I wish I could have done was win a national championship,” Stafford said.
Stafford played three seasons with North Dakota from 2003-06. The team made the Frozen Four in his sophomore and junior years, losing to Denver in the title game and then to Boston College in the semifinals.