TAMPA, Fla. – When Vaclav Prospal and Chris Gratton scored second-period goals on Saturday night, they propelled the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 2-1 lead. Despite the efforts and 46 shots on goal, a late comeback by the Florida Panthers resulted in a 3-2 decision at the St. Pete Times Forum.
After the puck bounced off the back boards, Richard Zednik scored with a little more than one minute remaining in the game to give the Panthers their first win at Tampa Bay this season.
A couple of minutes into the game Karri Ramo denied a shot by Steve Montador, but Jay Bouwmeester gave Florida the early lead at the three minute mark. With David Brine charging the net Ramo skated to the edge of his crease, grabbing a shot by Montador from the right faceoff circle.
Capitalizing less than a minute later, Florida opened the scoring on a quick passing play. After David Booth made a circle-to-circle pass to Nathan Horton, the Panthers center dropped the puck back to Bouwmeester. Skating into the top of the slot, Bouwmeester fired the puck past Ramo for his 10th goal of the season.
Looking to tie the game, Dan Boyle followed up the goal with a strong chance against Florida. Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun made a glove save on the one-timed slap shot from the blue line.
With a little more than five minutes remaining in the period, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis pressured Vokoun at the side of the net. After Lecavalier dished the puck down to St. Louis at the left of Vokoun, the Tampa Bay winger tried to slide a shot on net. Vokoun dropped down in the crease to cover the puck for the save.
As the Lightning out-shot the Panthers, 18-7, through the first period, Paul Ranger and Brad Richards tried to connect on an odd-man rush. Ranger passed the puck up through the zone to Richards, but Vokoun blocked the shot to keep his team in the lead by one.
Lightning center Vaclav Prospal raises his arm to celebrate a goal with teammates including Paul Ranger as Florida Panthers defenseman Jassen Cullimore (22) looks down at teammate and goaltender Tomas Vokoun during the second period on Saturday, Feb. 2, 2008, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
Prior to notching his second period goal, Prospal opened the frame with a chance that rang off the post. A little more than four minutes into the period Prospal put a backhanded shot on goal from the middle of the slot. Although the attempt beat Vokoun through the five-hole as he stretched across the crease, the puck hit the left post and rebounded into the netminder’s pads.
Seconds after the faceoff on the following play, Gratton connected to tie the game at one.
As Craig MacDonald tipped a Brad Lukowich slap shot from the left point, Vokoun edged to the top of his crease to play the puck. The Panthers netminder blocked the initial shot, but the rebound dropped into the crease. Jumping on the loose puck, Gratton banged the shot into the open net behind Vokoun to post his ninth goal of the season.
The score stood as Gratton’s second in his previous two games, giving the Lightning center goals in consecutive games for the first time this season.
Tampa Bay continued to pepper Florida with shot in the middle period, including one on a Richards breakaway attempt down the right wing. Richards switched to the backhand as he approached the crease but Vokoun blocked the shot with his pads and grabbed the puck for the save.
At the end of a Lightning power play Vokoun denied consecutive shots by Gratton and Jan Hlavac. After blocking a shot by Gratton as he skated from the corner to the side of the net, Vokoun held off a rebound attempt by Hlavac in the goal mouth.
At the opposite end of the ice Ramo made similar saves, blocking Tanner Glass as he tried to stuff a shot into the right side of the net. Ramo later shut down Olli Jokinen as he tried to bang the puck past, following up with a save against Radek Dvorak at the front of the net.
With 1:43 remaining in the second period the Lightning connected on one of their 17 shots to skate into the final frame with a one-goal lead.
Scoring for the third consecutive game, Prospal converted a shot by Dan Boyle for his 22nd goal of the season. Crashing towards the net, Prospal slipped the puck through the five-hole as Vokoun closed his pads to save the initial shot.
During his career, Boyle has been strong against his former team. The Lightning defenseman has posted scoring 23 career points (five goals, 18 assists) through 31 games against Florida. Boyle led all skaters with seven shots in the contest.
Helping send his team into the third period with the lead, Ramo stoned Horton on a breakaway attempt with less than 30 seconds remaining in the middle frame. As Horton skated in alone he tried to deke Ramo, but the Tampa Bay netminder slid to his left to make a pad save.
Early in the period Vokoun made a diving save against Richards to keep his club within one. After a Ranger slap shot was saved, Richards fired a back-handed attempt on Vokoun from the slot. The Florida goalie dove through his crease to get his stick on the puck and make the save.
With Vokoun keeping the Panthers in the game, the team went on to score twice in the final six minutes of the game. Jokinen scored at 14:04 to tie the game at two, connecting on a rebound at the side of the net. The goal was Jokinen’s team-leading 25th of the season.
Ramo went on to make a pair of saves against Stephen Weiss. After making a glove save on a shot by Weiss from the left faceoff circle, Ramo got a little help from the post after a second shot deflected at the front of the net.
Despite the saves, a missed shot by Jassen Cullimore ricocheted off the back boards to the front of the net with 65 seconds remaining in the period. Positioned deep in the slot, Zednik put the puck past Ramo to give the Panthers their first win at the St. Pete Times Forum through three games this season.
Tampa Bay out-shot Florida 46-32 in the contest. With Vokoun stopping 44 Lightning shots, the Panthers tied the season series at three wins.
Following an extended home stand the Lightning will get back on the road on Tuesday, February 5 (8:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) to face off against the St. Louis Blues. The game will feature the lone match-up between the teams the season, kicking off a three-game road trip for Tampa Bay.
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