After being drafted together in 1998, playing as teammates in World Juniors and being placed on the same line this season, Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay can add another shared hockey memory to the list.
Lecavalier recorded career assist number 400 on Tanguay’s 200th NHL goal on Saturday against the Panthers, a game in which the Lightning set a season-high 49 shots on goal.
Tampa Bay’s previous season-best mark stood at 44, which came on Oct. 8 against New Jersey at the St. Pete Times Forum.
Andrej Meszaros also scored for the Bolts, who dropped the conclusion of a home and home series 5-2 at the BankAtlantic Center.
“Every team in the league is a good team and I think a lot of them are pretty close in the standings,” defenseman Kurtis Foster said. “On any given night anybody could win, but we have to come into every game with the same mind set and the same game plan. If we do that every time, I think we could really win a lot of games.”
Florida, who won for the third time in its last four tries, got two goals each from Rostislav Olesz and Cory Stillman, who along with teammate Keith Ballard, led all skaters with three points.
“I had a slow start and got going for about 10 games, but then I got injured and missed a few. But it feels good to get back, my line’s moving right now, and sometimes you need a break to score a goal and change things, and I think we got that,” Stillman said.
The Panthers received an additional goal from Bryan Allen, who scored for the first time since Dec. 3 at Washington.
Stillman opened the game with a power play goal at 4:07 in the first period before netting his second of the frame just six minutes later to give the Panthers an early two-goal lead.
Tanguay put the Bolts on the board at 11:44, while cutting the deficit in half as he finished off a rush with Lecavalier, who has recorded four helpers in his last three games.
“I’ve been a little snake-bitten this year and haven’t got going, but hopefully I can pick it up in the second half, contribute, and get the team going a little more,” Tanguay said.
Ryan Malone nearly tied the game with under five minutes in the first period, but a call that would have awarded Malone a penalty shot was not made when Panthers goaltender Tomas Vokoun threw his stick in Malone’s direction, preventing the Tampa Bay forward from putting the puck in the net.
Tampa Bay, however, didn’t let a little bad luck deter them in their pursuit.
Meszaros evened things up at two just 70 seconds later on the power play before Bryan Allen regained Florida’s lead with a slap shot through traffic that snuck past goaltender Antero Niittymaki.
Niittymaki made 13 saves before being replaced at the start of the third by Dustin Tokarski, who made his NHL debut by stopping all five shots faced in the final period.
Vokoun, meanwhile, saved 47 of 49 shots and earned the Panthers at least a point for the fourth consecutive game.
Olesz extended the Panthers lead with a goal off a rebound at 5:02 into the second period and netted the game’s final goal with the man advantage at 12:36 as Florida won its second straight after a scoreless third period.
Along with Lecavalier and Tanguay, Lightning center Jeff Halpern also recorded a point for the third consecutive game.
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