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Markstrom sharp in net as Panthers hold off Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA -- The Florida Panthers have what the Tampa Bay Lightning would like -- solid goaltending.

At least that was the case on Tuesday as Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom stopped 39 shots to help hold off a late Lightning rally and key Florida's 3-2 shootout victory at The Forum.

Peter Mueller had the only successful shootout attempt to give the Panthers the extra point in the standings.

Alex Killorn and Tom Pyatt each had third-period goals for Tampa Bay while Mathieu Garon finished with 23 saves for the Lightning. Greg Rallo and Tomas Kopecky each deflected T.J. Brennan point shots for power play goals for Florida in support of Jacob Markstrom, who was the difference in the outcome.

"To me, he was the player of the game,'' Florida head coach Kevin Dineen said. "There were some quality opportunities. Sometimes your shots are deceptive stats and I would say tonight there were a lot of quality shots and Markstrom stood tall when we needed him.''

The Panthers opened the scoring, quickly cashing in on a power play chance when recently-acquired defenseman Brennan snapped home a one-timer wrist shot off a crisp cross-ice feed from Tomas Fleischmann that was deflected by Kopecky at 8:36, just 13 seconds after Pyatt was whistled for hooking. The lead held up into the first intermission, thanks to Markstrom in net, as the Panthers had to kill off two consecutive power plays, including 25 seconds of a two-man advantage.

Markstrom continued his strong play in the second period, coming up with some in-tight saves to keep the Lightning off the board and the Panthers in the lead. That proved to be a big factor as Pyatt was whistled for a second penalty late in the second period, and once again it was Brennan coming up with the big play on the power play, with a big shot from the far right point that deflected off Greg Rallo and over Garon for his first career goal at 16:41.

Pyatt, who committed both penalties that led to Florida's first two goals, pulled Tampa Bay to within a goal working a give-and-go with Teddy Purcell before whacking a puck past Markstrom at 5:38 of the third period. Killorn pulled the Lighting even with a rebound goal after Victor Hedman caromed a shot off the end boards at 10:32.

"We knew they were going to come hard,'' Markstrom said of the third period. "We were up two goals, so they didn't really have a choice.''

Despite the setback, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper liked the way his team played in his second game behind the bench as Tampa Bay finished with a season-high 41 shots on goal and dominated puck possession for the final two periods. The Lightning just failed to solve Markstrom more than two times.

"I told the guys that if we play like that consistently night in and night out, we will win more games than we lose,'' Cooper said.

NOTES: Lightning C Vinny Lecavalier skated for the first time with the team since suffering a lower-body injury on March 12 at Florida. Lecavalier has not ruled out returning for Thursday's game in Carolina. ... Tampa Bay dealt D Marc-Andre Bergeron to the Carolina Hurricanes in exchange for forward Adam Hall and a seventh-round draft pick in 2013. ... Florida will play three of the next four games at home -- with only a one-game trip to Winnipeg -- over the next two weeks. ... Panthers C Drew Shore missed Tuesday's game with an undisclosed injury and is considered day-to-day. Center Greg Rallo was called up from AHL San Antonio to replace Shore. ... The Lightning acquired former 2009 first-round pick LW Philippe Paradis from Chicago in exchange for D Kiril Gotovets, a seventh-round pick in 2009 who is currently playing for Cornell University.
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