The Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t go down without a fight.
The Lightning, fifth in the Eastern Conference with 85 points, spotted the Florida Panthers a two-goal lead in the final period, then rallied back to tie the game and send the contest into overtime, but dropped its second in a row following a 4-3 loss Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center.
Simon Gagne flipped a backhander over Panthers net minder Scott Clemmensen with 2:05 to go to cap the comeback. He crashed the net from the right side and batted in a rebound that sent the game into the extra session and ensured the Lightning at least a point.
“Last night we didn’t play well,” Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier said. “It didn’t pay off, but we generated a lot of shots towards the end and thought some of that momentum carried into tonight.”
Mike Smith got the call in net over Dwayne Roloson, who started the previous night in a 2-1 loss to the Ottawa Senators. Smith made 23 saves, but yielded the game’s winning goal to Jason Garrison with just 16 seconds remaining in overtime after the Panthers defensemen finished off an odd-man rush with Mike Santorelli.
The Lightning had a similar chance on nearly an identical play just seconds before, but a pass by Martin St. Louis was broken up through the slot, contained, and sent out of the zone to Santorelli who created the game-winning scoring chance from along the left boards.
“They’re a hard-working team and it seems like we’re always in a one-goal game with them,” Tyrell said. “From what I know about the history here, they’re tough to play against.”
The win was Florida’s second in its last eight games. The Panthers have taken four out of five from the Lightning this season, with all but one of those wins coming in one-goal decisions. Clemmensen finished the night with 35 saves.
David Booth, Ryan Carter and Niclas Bergfors each had goals for the Panthers. Saturday’s game was Florida’s 43rd to be decided by just one goal, which is the most in the NHL.
Tampa Bay began to rally back early in the third when Lecavalier took advantage of a another opportunity with the extra skater after Stamkos put home a power-play goal earlier in the contest towards the end of the second period.
After Garrison was sent off for a four-minute high-sticking minor and with an additional man down due to a delay-of-game call, Lecavalier made it 3-2 at 12:35, scoring Tampa Bay’s third power-play goal of the night. St. Louis found the captain out in front, who tipped the puck in past Clemmensen from in close.
Then, Gagne tied it with the man advantage with just 2:05 to go.
Tampa Bay outshot the Panthers 19-9 in the final period, one night after holding a 20-4 third-period shot advantage over Ottawa.
“We had some good chances,” forward Dana Tyrell said. “I thought we should have had some there in the first.”
Booth opened the scoring at 4:33 of the second with a wrist shot that beat Smith to the far post. With the Lightning in the middle of a line change, Booth took a pass from Mike Weaver out of the neutral zone and skated in before firing a shot to make it 1-0.
Stamkos tied it with a slap shot from the point at 14:10. The league’s leading scorer took a pass from St. Louis and teed one up through traffic during a 5-on-4 power play shortly after the first of two consecutive Panthers penalties had expired.
“It was nice to get one, especially after we didn’t get it on that first 5-on-3,” Stamkos said. “We were able to generate a lot of chances on the power play.”
Florida went up 2-1 on Carter’s second of the year 2:22 into the final period and Bergfors increased the lead to two with his first goal as a Panther less than three minutes later.
St. Louis and Stamkos each extended points streaks to four games. Stamkos’ goal at 14:10 in the second was his league-leading 23rd scored on the road.
The Panthers, meanwhile, were unable to convert on four power-play opportunities over the first two periods.
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