LIGHTNING 2, PANTHERS 1 (SO)
When Cory Stillman scored after the puck had been kicked around the ice 50 seconds into Friday's game, one would be forgiven for assuming Florida's meeting with the rival Lightning would turn into a high-flying offensive shootout.
And why not? The Lightning, which has played more road games than any other team in the league, aren't exactly known for its defensive prowess. Then again, the Panthers aren't exactly an offensive juggernaut.
The two teams each scored in the first period but got nothing else until Tampa Bay's Dominic Moore scored on the final shootout shot of the night Friday. Moore's shot was reviewed in Toronto but held up and served as the game-winner as the Lightning escaped BankAtlantic Center with a 2-1 win. The Panthers have been in four straight overtime games.
Moore, traded from the Panthers to Montreal for a 2011 second round pick last March, appeared to have touched the puck twice before it went past goalie Tomas Vokoun. The NHL's Mike Murphy, however, told Fox Florida that was not the case and the goal stood.
“I don't know. There's a clear save. The puck was headed to the corner,'' said coach Pete DeBoer, whose team has been on the losing end of just about every close goal call this season. “Whether it stays on his stick and it's jammed into the net, I still don't understand the rationale on that. I'll call and get an explanation on that too.''
The big surprise Friday wasn't that the Panthers were held to one goal. In their past 12 games, Florida has been held to two goals or fewer six times.
The biggest shocker was the Panthers patched up defense holding the talented Lightning to only one in regulation. Florida was playing with three defensemen who were playing for their minor league team in western New York just last week. The Panthers held Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis – the Lightning's two leading scorers – to one combined shot.
“We played a hell of a game,'' DeBoer said. “Tip your hat to their goaltender. He made some big saves, our guy made the big saves. We had a lot of young guys on defense and they all played well. It was one of those games you can't be too upset about. I don't know if we could have done more differently.''
Tampa Bay, which has given up the third-highest amount of goals in the league, scuttled numerous scoring chances by the Panthers throughout. Florida's power play, which appeared to show signs of life just a few games ago, went 0-for-7 against the Lightning and backup goalie Dan Ellis.
“They played well and we did a good job of shutting them down,'' Wideman said. “We drew a lot of penalties and didn't score on the power play. When it comes down to it, when it's down the stretch, the power play has to come through.''
Wideman was stopped in front of the net by Ellis with 3:39 left in overtime just before the Panthers fell victim to a questionable call. Moments after Mike Santorelli was smashed against the boards by Victor Hedman, Florida's Bryan Allen was called for tripping Vinny Lecavalier on a breakaway. Lecavalier could have won it for the Lightning, but put a shot up under Vokoun's pad.
-- The Lightning played its league-high 29th road game on Friday but are now getting a reprieve. The Lightning will not be the visitor again until Feb. 28 as it plays host to 12 straight home games at St. Pete Times Forum – the longest homestand since the California Golden Seals of the mid-1970s.
-- The Panthers lost the final three games of their homestand but still finished 3-0-3. The nine points were the most for a Florida homestand since it got 13 in 2007-07 by going 6-0-1. Five of the six games ended in overtime.
Defenseman Jason Garrison was questionable going into Friday's game so Clay Wilson was brought up from Florida's AHL affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., as a precaution.
Even though Garrison played, Wilson was in the lineup as well. The Panthers went with seven defensemen, including Joe Callahan – called up from Rochester on Thursday to fill in for the injured Dmitry Kulikov.
Forward Darcy Hordichuk was a healthy scratch as Florida played 11 forwards with David Booth doubling up by playing on both the second and fourth lines. With seven defensemen, the Panthers would not be shorthanded defensively if Garrison's troublesome groin flared up during the game. It didn't – although Garrison was definitely sore. Garrison played 23:50 on 24 shifts.
-- Coach Pete DeBoer said Kulikov (ribs) should be on the team plane to New Jersey on Saturday as the Panthers kick off a three-game road trip Sunday in Newark. Kulikov is not expected to play against the Devils but could come back for one of the final two games. DeBoer said Kulikov did not suffer broken ribs, but it “is a painful injury.''
Kulikov had been playing very well before getting hurt, with DeBoer praising his game against the Devils on Saturday by saying it was the best game of his young career.
“He was playing the best hockey of his career, making a difference every night,'' DeBoer said.
-- Winger Chris Higgins (hamstring) is back skating and said he was going to be on the upcoming trip and hoped to play before the All-Star break. Higgins has missed the past seven games.
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Florida Panthers Hold Back Lightning, Yet Still Lose 2-1: Dominic Moore's Shootout Goal the Winner
LIGHTNING 2, PANTHERS 1 (SO)