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Lightning get well in edging Panthers

The SportsXchange

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Losers of eight of their last 10, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to get back on track against a team that had dropped seven of eight on its way to the NHL's worst record.

Despite recording a third as many shots, the Lightning beat the Florida Panthers for the seventh consecutive time, taking a 3-2 victory Tuesday night in front of an announced crowd of 15,174 at the BB&T Center.

Center Steven Stamkos' power-play goal with 14:30 to go in the third period held up as the game-winner.

Forwards Teddy Purcell and Martin St. Louis assisted on Stamkos' NHL-leading 20th goal, which came on a wrist shot. It extended his goal streak against Florida to eight consecutive games.

The Lightning, outshot 39-13, earned the man advantage on defenseman Erik Gudbranson's trip of Stamkos, who was denied by goalie Jacob Markstrom and fell going for the rebound behind the net.

"You take it," said Stamkos, who has scored in three straight games. "All we've been talking about is getting wins, and we found a way to get a win. Some games you deserve to get a win and some you don't and your goalie keeps you in it and you find a way."

On the season, Tampa Bay (11-14-1) has scored on four of its 10 power plays against its Sunshine State rivals. The Lightning were 3 for their last 27 overall entering the game.

Goaltender Anders Lindback's save on center Shawn Matthias' breakaway with 3:40 left in the game preserved the win.

"It's big for me," Lindback said. "That's what I need to bring to the team every game. It's going to be more of these tight games. That's my job every time to step up and give the team a chance to win."

Trailing 2-0 heading into the second, the Panthers (7-14-6) didn't have to wait much longer to finally see results from their aggressive play and massive shot differential.

Immediately following the opening face-off, they capitalized on Lindback's misplay. He left the puck for defenseman Sami Silo behind the net. Florida center Marcel Goc stole it and passed to right winger Kris Versteeg, whose initial shot bounced behind the net. Goc passed it right back, and Versteeg scored just 13 seconds into the period.

Versteeg, who missed 12 games with an upper-body injury, collected just his second goal of the season and first since Jan. 31 against the Winnipeg Jets. After a hit by defenseman Radko Gudas in the third period, Versteeg left the game. He will be evaluated on Wednesday.

"(We're) snake bit," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "Obviously it's not working in a positive way for us right now. It's no fun for any of us. We all understand that we're the ones out there trying to fix it -- meaning all of us. That's the team and management and players. It's tough."

Right winger Tomas Kopecky evened the score 11 minutes later on his 11th goal, surpassing last year's total. Twice the Lightning couldn't clear the puck from their zone, and Jack Skille's pass to the side of the net reached Kopecky, whose shot slipped through a couple of defensemen and Lindback.

Kopecky has 11 points in his past 14 games (nine goals, two assists).

"We battled hard for 60 minutes there, worked really hard as a team and for each other," said Skille, who is riding a career-best, four-game point streak (1-3-4). "It's definitely tough to swallow, especially tonight when you see everyone in the room giving such an effort."

Although they had just three shots on goal in the first period, the Lightning still led 2-0 at the first intermission.

Tampa Bay scored 1:36 into the game on captain Vincent Lecavalier's seventh goal of the season.

St. Louis received center Alex Killorn's feed from the boards and passed the puck in front of the net to Lecavalier, who handled it and made a move from the right to left side of the cage, beating Markstrom on his team's first shot.

When Lecavalier has at least one point, the Lightning are 10-3-1, compared to 0-11-0 when he doesn't. The center has 12 goals and 15 assists during his past 23 games against Florida.

On just their third shot of the period -- and first in more than 10 minutes -- the Lightning extended the lead to 2-0 on St. Louis' seventh goal of the season with 2:12 remaining.

St. Louis began a 2-on-2 fast break before dropping a pass to Lecavalier, who then found Killorn skating toward the goal. The pass lured Markstrom out of the crease, leaving an open net for St. Louis on Killorn's cross.

In his past seven games, St. Louis has at least one point. He also has at least one point in his past seven contests against Florida.

Florida, meanwhile, failed to capitalize on each of its four power plays on the night, including one delayed by defenseman Colby Robak's slap shot, which cracked the glass behind the net. The section needed to be replaced. Tampa Bay has killed all 11 Florida power plays against it this season.

"There's not one particular thing," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said of his team's streak against the Panthers. "Everybody would like to look at it and there's one thing and we've got their number. That's not the reality. Every game is a different game, it's hard-fought and there's a different story every game."

NOTES: Panthers defenseman Filip Kuba played two seasons (2006-08) with the Lightning, recording 68 points in 156 games. Florida assistant coach Craig Ramsay served as an associate coach during Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup season in 2004. ... Right winger Alexei Kovalev was the only Florida scratch. ... The Lightning acquired forward Dan Sexton from the Anaheim Ducks in exchange for forward Kyle Wilson on Monday. ... Tampa Bay recalled defenseman Radko Gudas from the AHL's Syracuse Crunch, reassigning defenseman Brendan Mikkelson. ... Defenseman Brian Lee, right winger Adam Hall and left winger Pierre-Cedric Labrie were Tampa Bay's scratches. ... Up next, the Lightning host the New York Islanders on Thursday to begin a three-game homestand. ... The Panthers head to Boston to face the Bruins on Thursday before returning home to face the Islanders on Saturday.
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