Cross-State Rivals Face Off As Bolts End Home Stand
TAMPA, Fla. – With only one game remaining in their five-game home stand, the Tampa Bay Lightning are prepared to face off against the in-state rival Florida Panthers on Saturday night. Meeting for the sixth time this season, the clubs will drop the puck on February 2 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Playing the third of four scheduled games at Tampa Bay, the Panthers will face the Lightning on the tail end of back-to-back games. Both clubs skate into the match-up following 4-3 victories against the Vancouver Canucks.
In a rare meeting against the Western Conference opponent, the Lightning skated to the win on the power of three-point nights by Brad Richards and Martin St. Louis
. Richards scored the game-winning goal and added two assists and St. Louis dished out three helpers in the contest.
After Luc Bourdon opened the scoring for Vancouver, Vaclav Prospal tied the game at one with a power play goal at 7:56 of the first period. Posting his 21st goal of the season after a pass to the front of the net deflected off a Canucks defender, Prospal notched his second goal in consecutive games.
Although Taylor Pyatt added his 13th goal of the season late in the first period, a pair of second period goals by Chris Gratton and Vincent Lecavalier
gave the Lightning a 3-2 lead. Following up Gratton’s shot to the five-hole from the left faceoff circle, Lecavalier connected for his team-leading 31st goal of the season.
When a pass through the slot by St. Louis deflected on its way to Lecavalier, the Lightning center tried to settle the rolling puck at the right faceoff circle. Firing off a quick shot, Lecavalier beat goaltender Roberto Luongo to send Tampa Bay into the final period with a one-goal lead.
Approaching the middle of the third period, Richards skated a go-ahead pass by St. Louis almost the full length of the ice. Richards stopped to slap a shot from the top of the right faceoff circle, posting his 16th goal of the season. Although Alexander Edler connected for Vancouver with 25 seconds remaining in the contest, the Richards goal stood as the game-winner.
The Lightning out-shot the Canucks, 27-26, with goaltender Karri Ramo earning his third career victory. Tampa Bay connected on one of two man-advantage opportunities while holding Vancouver scoreless through five power plays.
Handing the Canucks their second consecutive 4-3 loss, the Panthers enter Saturday’s match-up following a shootout win. Nathan Horton scored the lone shootout goal and scored once in regulation to lead Florida in the contest.
After Daniel Sedin opened the scoring for Vancouver with nine seconds remaining in the first period, Florida added a pair of second-period goals. Horton posted his 13th goal of the season at 5:04 of the frame before Henrik Sedin and Jozef Stumpel exchanged goals in a span of 1:29.
Mason Raymond scored for the Canucks and Stephen Weiss connected for the Panthers, sending the game into overtime tied at three. Tomas Vokoun denied all three Vancouver skaters in the shootout, pulling to .500 (21-21-4) on the season.
Florida out-shot Vancouver in the contest, 43-32, but Luongo’s 40 saves against his former team weren’t enough for the win. Vokoun stopped 29 shots to give the Panthers their first win against the Canucks since 1999.
The last time Vokoun met the Lightning, the Panthers goaltender allowed four goals on 20 shots as Tampa Bay skated to a 5-3 victory. Richards and Nick Tarnasky each posted a pair of goals, and St. Louis and Craig MacDonald recorded two assists each en route to the win.
In the third of four scheduled meetings at Florida, Olli Jokinen needed only 38 seconds to get his club on the board. The lead didn’t last long however, as Tarnasky posted his second goal of the season at 10:39 of the period.
Tampa Bay took a 3-1 lead early in the middle frame when Jan Hlavac and Tarnasky scored goals 66 seconds apart. As the Lightning carried their lead into the third period, the clubs exchanged a pair of goals to close out the scoring.
Richards went on to score both goals in the final frame, including the game-winner followed by an empty-net goal with 16 seconds remaining in the contest.
Goaltender Johan Holmqvist earned the win with 27 saves in the contest. With the victory Holmqvist improved to 4-3-1 in his career against Florida.
Jokinen, the Panthers leading scorer with 50 points (24 goals, 26 assists) through 53 games, was held to one goal in the contest. The Florida captain leads his club with three goals and five assists against the Lightning this season.
Through five games this season, Richards and Lecavalier are tied with six points apiece against the Panthers. Lecavalier has recorded one goal and five assists while Richards has scored twice and added four helpers.
Lecavalier and Richards are also tied as the Lightning’s top scorers against the Panthers in their careers with 38 points each. Both players have recorded 14 goals and 24 assists through 48 and 42 games, respectively.