TAMPA, Fla. – Jeff Halpern had a hand in all three Tampa Bay Lightning goals as the team skated in their season series finale against the Florida Panthers. Boosted by Karri Ramo’s 34-save performance, the Lightning recorded a 3-1 victory at the St. Pete Times Forum on Tuesday night.
Michel Ouellet posted the opening goal and Filip Kuba connected for an empty-net score as the Lightning began their final home stand of the season. David Booth was the lone Panthers goal-scorer in the contest.
Early in the first period Booth tested Ramo after skating down the left side to snap off a shot. On the following play the Florida winger had a shot blocked by Alexandre Picard before firing a rebound attempt. The puck rang off both posts to keep the Panthers off the board.
Only three minutes into the contest Ouellet gave Tampa Bay the early lead with his 16th goal of the season.
Following a wrap-around shot by Halpern, Ouellet skated to the right of goaltender Tomas Vokoun from behind the net. Ouellet put an initial shot on goal, pulling Vokoun out of his crease to make the save. Converting the rebound, the Lightning winger popped a shot into the open side of the net.
With an assist on the score, defenseman Dan Boyle recorded his 250th point with the Lightning. Since returning to the lineup from a wrist injury, Boyle has recorded 22 points (four goals, 18 assists) through 31 games.
As Tampa Bay looked to extend the lead, Vokoun reached out to make a glove on a slapshot from the slot by Martin St. Louis. Vokoun later dropped down and slid through his crease to make a pad save against the Lightning winger. Skating through the middle of the zone, St. Louis pulled the puck around defenseman Jassen Cullimore before stepping towards the net for a quick shot on the play.
With a little more than a couple of minutes remaining in the period Jay Bouwmeester missed the net on a slapshot from the point, sending a rebound to Stephen Weiss. The Panthers center stepped to the side of the net for a quick shot, but Ramo held on for the save.
Although the Lightning carried the lead into the middle period, Booth notched his 21st goal of the season to tie the game at one. After turning over the puck at the blue line Booth skated down the left wing to put a wrist shot to the five hole against Ramo.
Following the marker at 2:58 of the frame, both teams were held off the board until the third period. Ramo made 15 saves in the second, holding off a number of strong Panthers attempts.
During the frame, Ramo denied Weiss on a slapped shot from the goal mouth after the puck was centered from behind the net. Horton tried to get a piece of the rebound at the side of the net, but Ramo denied the shots with pad saves.
Ramo later blocked a slapshot by Horton from the point before fending off a shot by Bouwmeester. After Weiss backhanded a pass across the blue line, Bouwmeester one-timed a shot through traffic from the right point.
Gregory Campbell later tested Ramo on a wrap-around attempt, but the Lightning netminder stayed tight to the left post to make the save.
Looking to connect for Tampa Bay tried to reach for a rebound off a shot by Halpern from the slot. Vokoun made a pad save on the play before Ouellet’s attempt was blocked in front.
Scoring 71 seconds into the final period, the Lightning reclaimed their lead when Halpern notched his 17th goal of the season. Kuba fed a pass down to Jussi Jokinen at goal line before continuing the puck to Ouellet in front of the net. Ouellet forwarded the puck to Halpern at the right of Vokoun where the Tampa Bay center fired a shot into the goal.
Ouellet finished the game with one goal and one assist. Through his previous 15 games, Ouellet has posted a pair of four-game point streaks, recording nine goals and 13 total points.
As the period continued Halpern skated down the middle of the ice before making a backhanded pass to Jokinen at the right faceoff circle. Jokinen sent the puck back to the middle of the slot where Ouellet, charging in from behind the play, put a quick shot on Vokoun.
Vincent Lecavalier later posted a shorthanded chance after gaining control of the puck at the top of the left circle. Sliding the puck between Olli Jokinen’s legs, Lecavalier brought the stick around the Panthers forward before skating towards the net. As he dropped to his knees, Lecavalier put a backhanded shot on goal, but Vokoun made the pad save.
The Lightning held on through the remainder of the period before Kuba skated down the right wing to pop a shot into the open net with 51.2 seconds remaining in the game. Kuba has recorded two goals and three assists during his current three game point streak.
Adding an assist on the goal, Halpern finished the contest with one goal and two helpers. Halpern has recorded four multi-point games since joining the Lightning and has points in six of his previous seven outings.
As the Panthers out-shot the Lightning, 35-26, Ramo earned the win by making a season-high 34 saves. Horton led all skaters with eight shots, while St. Louis recorded a team-high five shots for Tampa Bay.
The Lightning were scoreless through one man-advantage opportunity while killing off three Florida power plays in the game.
Tampa continues their four-game home stand on Thursday, March 27 (7:30p.m., Sun Sports, 620 WDAE) with their seventh match-up against the Washington Capitals. The Lightning look to build upon their recent success at the St. Pete Times Forum as they look for their fourth consecutive win on home ice.
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