OWNED BY LIGHTNING: Tampa Bay Completes Season Sweep of Panthers, Roll to 5-4 Win ... Dan Ellis Makes First Start, Quinton Howden Gets First NHL Goal
TAMPA -- Tampa Bay had lost five straight games but the Panthers their own special way of helping others turn things around.
Especially the Lightning -- at least lately.
Tampa Bay continued its recent dominance of the cross-state rivalry with a 5-4 win Thursday at Tampa Bay Times Forum.
"We came to play, owed them a good game,'' said Scottie Upshall, who scored the first of Florida's two goals in the final 1:05 to make the score a tad more respectable.
"We came out with a lot of energy but got away from playing a simple game. Their offense started to take over, had some long shifts and put us on our heels. From then it was an uphill battle. We had a big effort, but we have a long way to go to be where we want.''
Although the Panthers hold a nice advantage in the all-time series, Tampa Bay won all four meetings this season and seven of the past nine.
Steven Stamkos (who has 38 points in 31 games against the Panthers) scored his first goal since returning from a broken leg last week. Ryan Callahan, the former Rangers captain who came over the in Martin St. Louis trade, also got his first goal in a Tampa Bay blueshirt.
"We have to eliminate some of the little things,'' said Florida coach Peter Horachek, whose team led twice early.
"We have to bear down, put our foot down and not allow that Callahan goal.''
The Panthers, who have lost three straight and 11 of 14 as they jockey for prime draft position once again, watched the Lightning take control of the game by scoring twice in the second.
Florida led 1-0 after Tomas Fleischmann scored 1:44 into the game on a power play.
The Lightning tied things at 5:38 when Sami Salo beat Florida backup Dan Ellis on a long shot, but 12 seconds later, Quinton Howden scored his first NHL goal to make it 2-1.
It was all Lightning after that.
Mike Kostka tied it by scoring on the Lightning's fifth shot against Ellis at 8:18 of the first, with Callahan giving Tampa Bay its first lead at 12:04 of the second.
Tyler Johnson made it 4-2 with just over a minute left when he threw up an odd-angled shot that hit Ed Jovanovski's skate and skipped past Ellis.
Stamkos slammed home a power play goal midway through the third. Scottie Upshall and Brandon Pirri scoeed Florida's final goals of the night.
With two big games with personal meaning to Roberto Luongo upcoming, the Panthers went with Ellis on Thursday. Ellis' previous start came against Columbus while a member of Stars on March 4.
Ellis played for the Lightning during the 2010-11 season.
The Panthers play host to New Jersey -- and former Vancouver goalie Cory Schneider -- on Friday with the Canucks coming to town.
Schneider took Luongo's starting job in 2013 before being traded away last summer. Luongo was traded from Vancouver to Florida last week.
Ellis had 23 saves on 28 shots.
-- Howden saw plenty of familiar faces when he joined the Panthers for the first time this season. Howden, who played in 18 games last year, spent this season with Florida's AHL affiliate in San Antonio.
Seven of the Panthers' 20 players on Thursday had spent some time with the Rampage.
"You can't wait around for that call to come,'' Howden said. "You never know what's going to happen up here so you keep working for the chance. It's nice to see a lot of guys, guys you played with all year. It makes things more comfortable. It's awesome.''
-- The Panthers are scheduled to practice at their training facility in Coral Springs at 11 a.m. on Saturday. The Canucks -- with a number of former Panthers on their roster including Shawn Matthias and Jacob Markstrom -- will practice at the IceDen at 2:30 that day.
FRIDAY: DEVILS AT PANTHERS
When, Where: 7:30 p.m.; BB&T Center, Sunrise
TV/Radio: FSNF; WQAM 560
The series: New Jersey leads 48-26-7
Scouting report: The Devils have won two straight and three of four as they try to stay in the race for a playoff spot. New Jersey has won three of the past four against the Panthers including an overtime victory in Newark on Jan. 11