SUNRISE, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning fired 37 shots on goal on Saturday night, but a strong effort by netminder Tomas Vokoun proved to be the difference in the contest. Meeting the Florida Panthers for the seventh of eight match-ups this season, the Lightning dropped a 4-2 decision.
Mathieu Darche recorded two points (one goal, one assist) and Junior Lessard posted a second-period marker for the Tampa Bay goals, while Nathan Horton scored twice to lead the Panthers.
Early in the game Jay Bouwmeester connected on the power play to give Florida the advantage. Firing a slap shot from the top of the left faceoff circle, Bouwmeester put the puck into the top right corner of the net against goalie Mike Smith.
Minutes later, Panthers captain Olli Jokinen tested Smith by tipping the puck on goal from the bottom of the slot. Jokinen put the shot through traffic and Smith blocked the attempt for the save.
Later, David Booth carried the puck down the right wing before stopping and making a pass back to Horton. As he jumped up into the play, Horton fired an open shot that Smith held off.
Looking to tie the game Dan Boyle got the puck out of the deep right corner, finding Andreas Karlsson in front of Vokoun. Karlsson continued the pass to Jason Ward, whose shot was blocked by the Panthers goalie and send behind the net. As Nick Tarnasky gained control of the puck he sent it through the crease, but Boyle was unable to get his stick down for a shot into the open net.
Despite being down by a goal, the Lightning peppered the Panthers in the second, out-shooting their opponent 17-5 during the frame.
Shortly after the expiration of a Tampa Bay power play, Karlsson passed the puck from the right wing circle down to Darche below the goal line. Darche stepped out to the side of the net for a shot, but Vokoun batted away the attempt.
Vokoun later held on for a save after a Martin St. Louis shot from the top of the right circle. After Vincent Lecavalier dropped a backwards pass through his legs at the blue line, St. Louis fired a slap shot on goal.
Less than one minute later Lessard connected to tie the game at one with his first goal of the season. Snapping a shot off a centering pass by Darche, Lessard put a shot from the right hash marks low and to the five-hole against Vokoun. The goal was Lessard’s first with the Lightning.
After Vokoun stopped a pair of slap shots by Alexandre Picard and a shot at the side of the net by Boyle, his Panthers teammates connected to regain the lead.
Carrying the puck up the middle of the ice, Stephen Weiss made a pass across to Booth at the left wing. Booth continued moving the puck, passing back to Horton at the slot for a wrist shot to the stick side.
Shortly after the play the Lightning skated with a two-man advantage, firing off a couple of quick shots as they tried to tie the game. From the goal line at Vokoun’s left side, Jussi Jokinen passed the puck through traffic to St. Louis in the slot. Vokoun stopped the puck before denying Lecavalier when the rebound bounced out to the right circle for a slap shot attempt.
Vokoun went on to hold off Lecavalier on a second power play slap shot, sliding across the goal line and stacking his pads for the save. Boyle went on to open the final period with a rising, one-timed slap shot off a pass by Lecavalier, but Vokoun stood tall on the play.
Setting Lecavalier up for one of his team-leading seven shots in the contest, St. Louis picked off the puck at the Lightning blue line midway through the third. St. Louis slid the puck across to Lecavalier who skated to the goal mouth before switching to the backhand. Down in the crease, Vokoun reached out with his glove hand to make the save.
Despite the scoring attempts, the Lightning fell behind by a pair of goals when Jokinen scored his 33rd goal of the season. Shooting the puck off a dropped pass by Brett McLean, Jokinen snapped his shot into the top corner of the net.
With Smith pulled late in the game for the extra man, Horton added an empty net goal to extend the Florida lead.
Tampa Bay responded to the goal as they continue to push for the comeback through the final minutes of play. Connecting with 71 seconds remaining in play, Darche scored his sixth goal of the season.
Kuba put an initial shot on goal after getting the puck at the edge of the crease. Although Vokoun blocked the first attempts, Darche got a pair of whacks on the rebounds before the puck slipped past the Florida netminder.
With the goal, Darche recorded his second multi-point game in his previous six outings. Through his previous seven games, Darche has posted one goal and added five assists.
Tampa Bay out-shot Florida 37-26 in the contest, posting 17 shots in each of the final two periods. Smith stopped 22 of 25 shots-faced for the decision.
Having concluded a three-game road trip, the Lightning will return to the St. Pete Times Forum to begin their final home stand of the year. Closing out a home-and-home series with the Panthers, the Lightning will face their in-state rival on Tuesday, March 25 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) for the eighth and final time this season.
1 - 0 FLA
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 FLA
3 - 1 FLA
4 - 1 FLA
4 - 2 FLA
Martin St. Louis