Steven Stamkos called it an "uncharacteristic hat trick." Even though one of the goals counted for the other team.
Stamkos scored twice for Tampa Bay and overcame putting another goal in his own net as the Lightning beat the Buffalo Sabres 4-3 in overtime Saturday night.
"It’s a tough bounce, but we responded," Stamkos said. "We get a power play after that and tie it up and that was a good push back from us."
With the game tied at 2, a delayed penalty to Cory Conacher drew Lightning goalie Ben Bishop to the bench for an extra attacker, but Stamkos’ back pass missed Michael Kostka and bounced off the boards in the neutral zone before gliding into the empty net.
"I don’t know if he took a puck and had 10 of them in a practice if he could throw it in," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Gosh, that was tough to watch. And when the puck goes down the ice, of course it’s like going in slow motion."
And for Stamkos, who would later score the winner in overtime, it was the first time seeing an "own goal" in person.
"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 in 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."
Alex Killorn and Ryan Callahan also scored for the Lightning, who have earned at least a point in 11 consecutive games.
With the win, Tampa Bay remained two points behind Montreal for second place in the Atlantic Division after the Canadiens beat Florida 4-1.
Matt D’Agostini, Cody Hodgson and Cory Conacher scored for Buffalo, which finished March with a 2-11-1 record.
The first period had little flow, with Buffalo’s failed power play near the midpoint the only time either team threatened to score.
That changed at the 12:20 mark, as D’Agostini freely carried the puck over the Lightning blue line before firing a point blank wrist shot over the right shoulder of Bishop to give Buffalo a 1-0 lead.
Rasmus Ristolainen and Johan Larsson picked up assists on the goal, giving the rookies points in back-to-back nights for the first time in their careers.
Buffalo doubled its advantage at the 14:07 mark when Zemgus Girgensons stripped Kostka deep in the Tampa Bay zone, and Christian Ehrhoff’s slap shot was redirected into the goal by Hodgson. Girgensons played his first game since missing 11 with a lower-body injury.
The lead wouldn’t last the rest of the period.
Tampa Bay picked up its first goal on Killorn’s shot that beat Matt Hackett between the legs. Killorn’s 16th of the season came at the 17:52 mark, and Stamkos scored the tying goal with 14 seconds to play.
Bishop was called upon to make a pair of trio of stops four minutes into the second period, as he stopped Tyler Ennis once and Brian Flynn twice before Victor Hedman took a penalty for forcing the net off the moorings.
Then came the Stamkos own-goal, and Conacher was given credit for it as the last Sabres player to touch the puck. Conacher was traded from Tampa Bay to Ottawa along with a fourth-round pick for Bishop in April 2013.
Bishop recounted watching the puck go in the net from the bench.
"It was kinda funny, actually," Bishop said. "One of those things that just happened, that’s the first time I’ve ever seen it live."
Trailing 3-2 and already on the power play, Tampa Bay received a 60-second two-man advantage when Mike Weber took a cross-checking penalty. It’s the sort of play Sabres interim head coach Ted Nolan is trying to eliminate from his young team.
"You want to see how certain people react," Nolan said. "The one penalty we take to make it 5-on-3, there’s no need to cross-check someone in the back of the head twice. That’s just a bad, bad penalty."
The Lightning only needed 52 seconds to capitalize. Playing in front of family and friends, Rochester, N.Y., native Callahan tapped in a cross-crease pass from Teddy Purcell to tie it at 3 at 10:07.
"I was a Sabres fan, so it’s definitely nice to come in here and play," Callahan said.
The Sabres had several shots at a winning goal with just over five minutes to play, but Bishop made several saves before referee Dave Jackson lost sight of the puck and blew his whistle. Two minutes later, Larsson’s attempt at an empty net was deflected out of play by Eric Brewer’s outreached stick.
Drew Stafford took a hooking penalty in overtime, and Stamkos walked in from the point to put the winning goal past Hackett.
NOTES: Tampa Bay outshot Buffalo 33-28. … The start of the game was delayed 10 minutes as the Sabres inducted goaltender Dominik Hasek into their Hall of Fame … Ville Leino missed the game with an undisclosed illness. He left Thursday’s 6-1 loss to Nashville after feeling light-headed.