The Big Story: The clubs come in with nearly identical records and also have matching point totals. A win for either club could vault it over the other into second place in the Southeast Division behind the leading Washington Capitals.
LIGHTNING – Tampa Bay visits the Panthers down in Sunrise for a brief one-game road stint before returning home to face the Flyers on Wednesday at the St. Pete Times Forum. A third consecutive sellout crowd was rocking the arena on Friday night to the tune of Steven Stamkos’ fourth career hat trick in a thrilling 5-4 overtime win over the Chicago Blackhawks. An eight-goal second frame straddled a scoreless first period as well as the last. After Stamkos opened the scoring and Brett Connolly notched his second tally in as many games, Chicago scored three times unanswered in 65 seconds to take a two-goal lead. Stamkos then countered with a pair to not only complete the hat trick, but to force overtime, where captain Vincent Lecavalier scored his league-leading fourth game-winning goal to extend the Bolts’ home win streak to four games.
PANTHERS – Florida wraps up a three-game home stand with the final contest coming against Tampa Bay. After a strong start to the season, the Panthers have lost three of their last four, including two consecutive games in shootouts to open their current home stand. Florida fell in the tiebreaker to Winnipeg on Halloween before dropping a second straight shootout contest to Chicago on Thursday night in the team’s most recent outing. Stephen Weiss and Ed Jovanovski helped erase an early two-goal deficit, but Florida couldn’t prevail past regulation, when the Blackhawks’ Patrick Kane scored the lone goal in the tiebreaker for the win.
Who’s Hot: Steven Stamkos, coming off his fourth career hat trick on Friday, now has six goals in his past five games. Captain Vincent Lecavalier is riding a three-game point streak with four points in that span. He has two goals in his past three games, both of which were game-winners. Florida’s Stephen Weiss has points in three of his past four games and Tomas Fleischmann has collected four goals and eight points over a current six-game point streak.
Injury Report: LIGHTNING – Mattias Ohlund (knee, placed on Injured Reserve); PANTHERS – Mikael Samuelsson (groin, out indefinitely).
Notable Quotable: “We persist and we never quit in any games. We keep going. I’m proud of them.” – Guy Boucher, following Tampa Bay’s 5-4 overtime win against Chicago on Friday night
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