WINNIPEG, Manitoba (AP) — According to Bryan Little, Winnipeg Jets captain Andrew Ladd probably has a sore back because of all the heavy lifting he did in a key shootout victory.
Ladd scored twice in regulation and added the decisive goal in the tiebreaker as the Jets stayed in the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff hunt with a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night.
“He’s our leader in the dressing room and he leads us on the ice,” said Little, who assisted on Ladd’s first goal. “He really took tonight serious. He went out there and put us on his back and he did a great job.
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“When he’s going, I think he’s one of the better players in the league.”
Ladd also earned an assist, and defenseman Zach Bogosian had a pair of assists. Blake Wheeler scored once and added two assists for Winnipeg (22-19-2), which is on a season-high, four-game winning streak.
The Jets are tied in points with the eighth-place New York Rangers in the East playoff race. Winnipeg has five games remaining, one fewer than New York.
Martin St. Louis, Pierre-Cedric Labrie and Steven Stamkos — with his 27th goal — scored for Tampa Bay (17-22-4).
Mike Santorelli also beat Lightning goalie Ben Bishop in the shootout. No Tampa Bay skaters scored on Ondrej Pavelec.
Winnipeg held a 3-1 lead heading into the third period, but Labrie scored after a scramble in front following a rebound at 5:19. Stamkos beat Pavelec on the stick side at 11:17.
The Jets outshot the Lightning 4-2 in overtime. Pavelec made 24 saves, and Bishop stopped 32 shots.
“You don’t want to give up a 3-1 lead in the third period, but they have some guys at the top of goal scoring in the NHL and a guy that can hurt you,” Ladd said. “Maybe we played a little too passive instead of staying on our toes and playing in their end, but at the end of the day we had two goals in the shootout and got our two points.
“We’ll take it and move on.”
Santorelli, picked up on waivers from Florida on trade deadline day, scored the first goal in the shootout after Wheeler was stopped.
Teddy Purcell and Richard Panik took the turns for Tampa Bay. Stamkos never got a chance.
“That’s the coach. I’m not worried about that right now,” Stamkos said when asked if his absence from the shootout was planned.
While the Lightning’s playoff chances are remote, Stamkos said there is still pride on the bench.
“For the second half of the game we showed a lot of character, and that’s a trait of our team,” Stamkos said. “We never give up no matter what. By no means are we going to pack it in the last five games of the year.
“We’re trying to win as many games and get as many points as we can and finish the year off strong.”
Winnipeg used a four-day break — its longest of the season — to jump out to a fast start.
After Tampa Bay defenseman Eric Brewer turned over the puck near center ice, Wheeler carried it up the ice and made a drop pass to Ladd inside the blue line.
Ladd skated toward Bishop and fired a low shot between his pads to give the Jets a 1-0 lead at 1:23.
A Winnipeg turnover led to the tying goal at 10:27.
Behind Winnipeg’s net with the puck, Jets defenseman Ron Hainsey sent a backhand pass that missed his teammate and went right to St. Louis’ stick in the left circle. A quick shot beat Pavelec.
Wheeler put the Jets ahead 2-1 at 8:37 of the second period.
After getting a pass from Ladd to the left of the net, Wheeler skated slowly across the front of the net and then shot the puck back from a sharp angle over Bishop for his 16th goal.
Winnipeg looked as though it scored again about four minutes later on a long shot from defenseman Grant Clitsome, but the referee waved off the goal because Ladd was interfering with Bishop.
Ladd made up for it late in the period as the Jets had 2 seconds left on a power play when he beat a partially screened Bishop at 17:54 with a wrist shot.
Ladd is on a five-game point streak with four goals and five assists.
Winnipeg outshot the Lightning 24-15 after two periods, but the Lightning struck twice in the third to make it 3-3.
NOTES: The Jets have gone five games without allowing a power-play goal at home. … During its four-game winning streak, Winnipeg has outscored opponents 12-0 in the second period.