Just making the playoffs isn’t enough for the Tampa Bay Lightning. With the way the team has performed in recent games, the team is making it apparent that they are after much more.
Vincent Lecavalier scored twice and Pavel Kubina had a goal Friday night for Tampa Bay, who broke past the 100-point plateau following a 4-2 win against the Florida Panthers to wrap up the home portion of the regular season in front of a crowd of 20,444 at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The win was the Lightning’s sixth in the past seven games, and tied the single-season franchise record of 25 home victories, while also earning the club 101 points on the season.
“It definitely means a lot,” Lecavalier said. “Thinking of where we came from the last two years, I think the guys are happy, but we’re not satisfied. We’ve got to keep it going.”
Tampa Bay still remains in fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings, three points behind fourth-place Pittsburgh, but with one game remaining, could tie the franchise single-season record of 46 wins in a season pending the outcome of its final regular season game tomorrow night at Carolina.
“I’ve seen everything I’ve wanted to see,” Lightning head coach Guy Boucher said. “Tomorrow, the only thing we have to get is a 46th victory to match the all-time record of the team.”
Florida fell to 29-40-12 on the season and has lost 10 straight. The Panthers got goals from Mike Santorelli and Jason Garrison, while Scott Clemmensen made 29 saves.
“I was proud of our effort,” Panthers head coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought we came out ready to play, but obviously penalties was the difference in the game.”
Florida found itself in penalty trouble early when Michal Repik was sent off following a boarding call four minutes into the game.
Lecavalier took full advantage and opened the scoring at 4:08 while positioned in front of the net. He took pass from Martin St. Louis and shoveled it to the far post to beat Clemmensen for a 1-0 lead.
The assist gave St. Louis points in eight straight games, while it also marked a single-season career-high total.
Lecavalier, meanwhile, has 28 points in his past 27 games.
“Since Christmas, he has been outstanding,” Boucher said of his captain. “He has been a force out there.”
Garrison tied it when his wrist shot from above the circle deflected off a Lightning player in front and redirected past Roloson at 11:59.
“Individual accomplishments are hard to acknowledge when we’re sitting where we’re sitting,” DeBoer said. “But I think you look back in the offseason and realize this season was pretty significant for a young guy like him.”
Following the Panthers’ opening goal, Roloson settled in net to make a number of key stops to not only keep Florida at bay, but to spark the offense in front of him as well, as the Lightning went on to score three unanswered goals before Santorelli capped the scoring with a goal at 5:11 of the final period.
Malone was credited for helping Tampa Bay take a 2-1 lead after Shawn Matthias put the puck in his own net with less than four minutes to go in the first period. As Clemmensen attempted to clear, the puck hit off of the Panthers defenseman and caromed into the net to put the Lightning up one.
Lecavalier then scored his second of the night on a penalty shot to make it 3-1 just over a minute into the middle stanza before Kubina increased the lead to three with 4:42 left in the period after picking up a rebound around the right circle and wristing one into an empty net as Clemmensen slid across the crease to get back into position.
“I am proud of these guys,” Boucher added. “We tied the franchise record for the number of wins at home, so that’s year one of our plans. That’s all we wanted to do in front of our fans, so I’m real proud of our players.”
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