The Tampa Bay Lightning did their best to remain positive after a tough loss. After all, it wasn’t difficult to do so following one of the better efforts of the season that even resulted in a point in the standings.
Tampa Bay fell for just the second time in its last seven, and for the first time at home since Nov. 14, losing to the division-rival Florida Panthers by a 4-3 decision in the shootout Saturday night. The tiebreaker was just the Lightning’s first through 24 games this season, marking the second-longest span to open a season without participating in a shootout since November 2007.
Both teams were coming off shutout losses Friday. Tampa Bay was beaten 6-0 by Washington, while the Panthers were blanked 3-0 by the New York Rangers.
Teddy Purcell had a power-play goal and Dana Tyrell and Sean Bergenheim also scored for the Lightning, who held a 2-0 advantage through the first 30 minutes before the Panthers came back with three unanswered goals to take a one-goal lead with seven minutes remaining in regulation.
“The effort was there the whole game,” Lightning Head Coach Guy Boucher said. “I thought we played well.”
The Lightning held a 37-27 shot advantage over the Panthers, including a 14-4 margin in the third period.
Tampa Bay, who entered the contest with the league’s third-best penalty kill unit, eliminated all four penalties on the night, but got intro trouble midway through the second with a tripping call from behind as the Panthers attempted to finish an odd rush.
Radek Dvorak made the most of the opportunity, cutting the deficit to one after slipping a wrist shot underneath the pad of Dan Ellis on the ensuing penalty shot.
Ellis turned back 24 of 27 shots on the night.
The Panthers, who halted a three-game losing streak, went 0-for-4 with the man advantage and has failed to score in 37 straight opportunities. They did, however, get goals from Dmitry Kulikov and Shawn Matthias. Stephen Weiss added the game-winner in the shootout.
“We needed that ending probably more than they did,” Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer said. “It was an important two points for us, we showed some resiliency, we hung around and our goalie was very good. That was a big two points for us.”
Kulikov tied the contest three minutes into the final period with an unassisted goal, and Matthias gave Florida its first lead at 8:31 when it appeared the Lightning’s Ryan Malone tipped the puck into his own net in an attempt to poke check the puck away.
“It’s tough when you give up a lead like that,” Ellis said. “We needed to bear down and close out that game. Those were two points we needed to have.”
Bergenheim drew the score even at three at 13:15 in the final period. He took a pass in the low slot and wristed one past Tomas Vokoun, then got his own rebound and backhanded a shot into the net to ultimately send the contest into overtime.
Vokoun finished with 34 saves.
“He’s always pretty good,” forward Martin St. Louis said. “He’s their MVP. He’s a good goaltender.”
Purcell opened scoring on the power play after cleaning up in front of the net and putting in a rebound at 10:21. He has 10 points in as many games.
Tyrell’s goal at 10:12 stretched Tampa Bay’s lead to two. The Lightning rookie cashed in his third of the season after backhanding a rebound after Vokoun initially blocked a shot in the low slot by Mattias Ritola.
Weiss scored the lone goal in the fourth round of the shootout, slipping a backhand through the legs of a sprawling Ellis.
“I thought our effort was there,” St. Louis added. “We fought, we battled, we would have liked to have two, but at least we got the point.”
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