SUNRISE, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning earned their fifth straight win, 6-1, against a Florida Panthers team who had previously won seven out of 10 in December.
Five different players had multi-point games for the Bolts, while Ben Bishop captured his 20th win (second in the league) of the season. It was also his fifth straight victory.
“We’ve played good, I know we’ve had some adversity thrown at us, but we find ways,” Martin St. Louis said. “With Florida it all started with our goaltending, it could have been a two-goal game or a one-goal game, but Ben Bishop has been their in net and it all starts their.”
With three wins in their first three meetings against the Panthers the Lightning also captured the Governor’s Cup awarded yearly to the team who wins the season series between the intra state rivals and division foes.
The Panthers struck first in the closing of the first period as Sean Bergenheim scored his fifth goal of the season on the power play at 18:56. It was the sixth consecutive game where Florida scored first, yet 19 seconds later the Bolts answered back with a tally by Alex Killorn to even the score at one.
After the first period it was announced that the Lightning’s blue line lost their seventh defenseman as Sami Salo exited the game with an upper body injury and did not return. He logged 5:19 of total time on ice in the matchup.
Tampa Bay pushed ahead with an additional three goals in the second period from St. Louis, Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson. Filppula’s goal came on the power play, giving the Lightning a marker on the man advantage in three straight contests.
St. Louis, who surpassed Chris Chelios for 90th on the NHL’s all-time point list with 949 career points, was fed a cross-ice pass from Ondrej Palat and took a shot on the Panthers’ Scott Clemmensen as it fluttered by the Florida netminder.
“As a team when Steven Stamkos went down Marty went through a little bit of a funk, but I don’t know if we’ve had a better player over the last eight games than No. 26,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “He’s been outstanding, he’s been a captain and Marty’s put his team on his back as of late. A reason we’ve won five straight is because of Martin St. Louis.”
“That was a great play. I was able to drive the net, then I pulled back and scored on a not very good shot,” St. Louis said. “On the 5-on-3 I took a hard shot, but then later I scored on a fanned shot, so it finds its way.”
Then at 13:36 Kucherov connected with J.T. Brown again for his second tally of the evening and his first multi-goal game in the NHL. The goal became the eventual final as the Bolts defeated the Panthers 6-1 .
“I’m really looking forward to taking a step back and taking a three-day breather,” Cooper said. “Right now it’s been game-day, off-day or practice-day and I’m really looking forward to going into this break winning five in a row. As much as you like to keep rolling, it’s good to take a break.”
UP NEXT – Tampa Bay will fly home and spend the next three days off for Christmas break. They will then pick up where they left off with a practice Friday, followed by back-to-back home games at the Tampa Bay Times Forum on Saturday and Sunday versus the Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers.