LIGHTNING 3, PANTHERS 2
Even though the Panthers' scoreboard Tuesday was malfunctioning to the point the team's president took to Twitter to apologize, the lopsided numbers in Florida's favor were correct.
Unfortunately for the Panthers, the actual score was right as well -- and it went against them. That's how this dreadful season has gone.
Even though Florida dominated the visiting Lightning for much of the night, Tampa Bay's star forwards came through with opportunistic goals to leave BB&T Center with a 3-2 victory over the NHL's last-place Panthers.
The Panthers ended up with a 39-13 advantage on the shot clock yet have lost 14 of the past 17.
"For the last two weeks, you're really beating up on your guys,'' coach Kevin Dineen lammented. "[Tuesday] is no different. Our fans go home unhappy, our players are upset as well. Snakebit? I don't know. But things aren't working in a positive way for us right now.''
Despite being grossly outshot (30-6 after two), Tampa Bay got quality in what few snipes it took.
Vinny Lecavalier scored on the Lightning's opening shot with Martin St. Louis scoring on No. 3. Steven Stamkos got the game-winner on Tampa's eighth shot of the night -- which didn't come until 5:30 into the third. In the first period, Florida outshot the Lightning 17-3 yet trailed 2-0.
"You get St. Louis, Stamkos and Lecavalier scoring,'' Dineen said, "and that's a pretty good formula they have there.''
Florida found itself down first for the eighth time in 10 games as rookie goalie Jacob Markstrom has surrendered a goal on the first official shot of the game in three of the past four. Montreal scored on its third shot Sunday.
The Lightning made it 1-0 on the opening shot when Lecavalier scored off a feed from St. Louis. About 16 minutes later, St. Louis made it 2-0 on the Lightning's third shot. Florida was ahead 16-3 in shots at that point.
Vertseeg got the Panthers on the working scoreboard by knocking a Marcel Goc delivery through just as the second started. Ten minutes later, Tomas Kopecky tied the score with his 11th of the season by knocking a Jack Skille pass between Lindback's skates.
Yet the Lightning got one power play chance in the third and buried it when Stamkos fired off an odd-angled shot from that hit Markstrom's stick and ricocheted between his skates and into the net.
The Lightning, which had lost seven of eight, is 3-0 against the Panthers this year with two left in Tampa.
"We had maybe two minutes when we took off and it's a good league. It bites you,'' Kopecky said. "I like the way we battled. It was something we were missing the past few games. But sometimes it's a tough one.''