And the following night, the Bolts would take a game across town in the Big Apple on the last night of NHL action prior to the Christmas break.
Playing against a New York Rangers club that had been playing well, Tampa Bay gutted out a 4-3 decision in a shootout.
In a game that went against the usual Lightning contest formula of badly outshooting their opponents, Ellis would come up big against the Rangers.
The Broadway Blueshirts held a 37-21 shots advantage after regulation, but needed a spectacular individual effort from rookie Derek Stepan midway through the third to tie the score.
The Bolts led 3-2 after two on goals from Martin St. Louis, Stamkos, and Vincent Lecavalier.
Stepan’s goal came on what started out as an innocent play. The Ranger winger picked the puck up along the left wing side and stickhandled in on Ellis. The Lightning netminder looked to have everything covered as he slid over towards the post and Stepan seemed to have run out of real estate. But as he went behind the net, Stepan somehow drew the puck between the post and Ellis’ pads, and flicked it across the goal line with a last-ditch swipe of his stick blade.
After an overtime in which Tampa would take all three shots on goal, Henrik Lundqvist stopped them all in sending the contest in a shootout.
After Ellis and Lundqvist gave up two goals in the first three rounds of the shootout, Ellis would stymie the next eight New York shooters. Lundqvist was equally as tough for the Lightning shooters, but would finally yield a goal to Malone in the eleventh round to secure the extra point for the Bolts.
The win vaulted Tampa Bay into the top spot in the Southeast Division, tied with the Washington Capitals with 45 points, but with two games in hand over their rivals from the north.
And that is the way the team headed into the holiday break – first in the Southeast, and now second in the Eastern Conference.
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