PANTHERS 4, LIGHTNING 3 (SO)
BY GEORGE RICHARDS
TAMPA – Even though the Panthers didn't solve all their problems on Saturday night, coach Pete DeBoer's postgame smile was only eclipsed by the jovial look on general manager Dale Tallon's face.
“Let's get some music going in this place,'' Tallon shouted as he bounded into the visitors locker room, slapping every back he encountered.
When a team snaps its longest losing streak of the season, and does so in dramatic fashion, people can get a little giddy.
“We needed that a little more than they did,'' DeBoer said after Florida's 4-3 shootout win against the Lightning at St. Pete Times Forum.
“We played some tight games this week and found a way to lose them. Good for us. We showed some resiliency, hung around and our goalie was really good. It was a big two points for us mentally.''
Said Stephen Weiss, who got the shootout winner: “It was a great game, we competed all night. We got one in on them in the shootout and the two points. It was a big win for us.''
Some of Florida's biggest problems of late popped up again Saturday as the power play still hasn't scored in what seems like three months and their top offensive threats were about to be held off the scorecard until Weiss beat Dan Ellis in the fourth round of the shootout.
Weiss' goal was the only one to go through by either team.
Yet plenty did go right against the rival Lightning. Radek Dvorak's penalty shot goal in the second helped spark a three-goal comeback. Florida's win was its first when trailing going into the third period in eight such situations. It was also the Panthers first foray into overtime this season.
For a while, it looked like the Panthers would go 22 games without the extra session.
The Panthers trailed 2-0 before Dvorak scored on a penalty shot after being pulled down on his way to the net. Dvorak's goal came with less than eight minutes left in the second but seemed to give the downtrodden Panthers quite the lift.
“We weren't doing much in the second up until then,'' DeBoer said. “They were controlling things.''
The Panthers scored three unanswered goals for the first time since last Saturday's 4-1 win on Long Island when Florida got all of its goals on seven shots in the second period.
Florida tied the score early in the third when Dmitry Kulikov got his first goal of the season by getting a pass in the right circle, spinning and whipping a shot of the night past Dan Ellis. Just over five minutes later, the Panthers had their first lead of the night courtesy of Shawn Matthias as he knocked a Mike Santorelli delivery between his legs and past Ellis for Florida's third goal.
“We found a way to win tonight and that's the most important part,'' Matthias said. “We just have to keep the ball rolling. We've played well, but we were down about the last ones. But we forgot about them and kept our foot on the gas the whole time. It paid off.''
The Panthers power play woes have been well documented this season, but how bad is it really? Not good.
-- Florida has a league-low five power play goals this season. Tampa Bay winger Steven Stamkos has 10 and teammate Ryan Malone has four. The Lightning's 26 power play goals (it got one against the Panthers on Saturday) is tops in the NHL.
-- The Panthers record for fewest power play goals in a season is 29, set in 1994-95 – the team's second season. But that is misleading because it was a strike-shortened season. Those Panthers scored 0.6 power play goals a game. This one is averaging 0.2 per game.
That means this Florida team is on pace to set the franchise record for fewest power play goals (19) despite playing the full 82 game schedule.
-- In a full 82 game schedule, the Panthers previous low for power play goals is 44 – set last season.