Tampa Bay bringing goalie Dwayne Roloson into Sunday's game with 4:39 left in the first period smacked of desperation.
And it was.
Starter Mathieu Garon had surrendered three goals on 12 shots and the Panthers were well on their way to another win over the Lightning.
Things don't always end up the way they start for the Panthers, however.
Despite the nice early lead, the Panthers failed to get anything past the 42-year-old Roloson and that allowed the Lightning to rally for a 4-3 shootout victory at BankAtlantic Center. Florida had won six of eight against Tampa Bay before Sunday's loss.
“We have to step on teams when we have the chance,'' defenseman Ed Jovanovski lamented. “We need to find that next goal, put teams away. It's definitely a bitter pill to swallow.''
The Panthers have lost three straight -- all in a shootout. The Panthers have struggled in the shootout ever since that format was brought to decide tie games after 65 minutes in 2005.
This stretch, however, has been pretty bad even by Florida standards.
Not only have the Panthers lost to Winnipeg, Chicago and Tampa Bay, but they haven't even scored in the shootout round. The Panthers went 0-for-4 on Sunday – Teddy Purcell scored in Round 4 for the Bolts – and are 0-for-9 through the past three.
Silver lining? The Panthers have gone 3-1-3 in their past seven, getting nine of the available 14 points. Of course, Florida has lost points with two divisional rivals (Winnipeg and Tampa Bay) benefiting from scraps left on the table.
“It turned into the wild west at the end, and the way it was going, didn't look like it was going to a shootout,'' coach Kevin Dineen said. “It's a little of the same-old story for our fanbase.''
Sunday started well enough, with the Panthers getting their eighth power play goal in three games against Tampa Bay this season when Brian Campbell zipped one through from the slot 1:49 into the game.
Later in the period, Jack Skille came out of the penalty box, picked off a puck and drove the ice, feeding Tomas Kopecky for Florida's second goal. With 4:39 left, Mike Santorelli walked in on Garon and went five hole for the 3-0 lead.
Garon held Florida to two goals in the Panthers 3-2 shootout win (their only one this season) on Oct. 15. Two nights later, Roloson gave up seven to the Panthers as Florida tied a franchise record with five power play goals in a 7-4 win. Roloson was terrific on Sunday, however, as he reversed course by stopping all 29 shots faced – not including four in the shootout from Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc, Stephen Weiss and Sean Bergenheim.
Roloson's play gave the Lightning the chance to steal a point or two. With 3:40 left in the second, Ryan Malone scored on a power play goal for Tampa Bay's first goal. Just 86 seconds and two shots later, Steven Stamkos made it 3-2 when scored from in front.
The Lightning tied it at 8:11 of the third when Teddy Purcell poked a loose puck through.
Both teams had plenty of chances to break the stalemate, with Weiss breaking free in the final seconds of overtime and having a great shot stopped.
The shootout came down to two players going against their former teams.
Dominic Moore, who played in Florida for 48 games two seasons ago, beat Jose Theodore (34 saves) to give the Lightning the advantage. Bergenheim, who was a postseason hero for Tampa Bay last summer, was stopped on his offering.
“I had a great chance, just have to put it in,'' Weiss said. “It's not so much [Roloson] as it was us not keeping our foot on the pedal. He made some saves to keep them in it, but this falls on us.''