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Panthers keep struggling in 5-2 loss to Lightning

The SportsXchange

TAMPA -- Two trends continued on Tuesday as the Tampa Bay Lightning remained very successful, and the Florida Panthers anything but early in the NHL season.

The Lightning rolled, 5-2, to win for the fifth time in six games -- including all four at home -- and maintained their lead in the Southeast Division. The Panthers lost their fifth straight -- including all three on the road -- and remained at a league-low two points.

While Tampa Bay deflected any speculation of a potential trap game missed with division foe Winnipeg in town on Friday, the Panthers were left trying to keep an early struggle from devouring its season.

"I like the fact they said they were going to come out hard tonight," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "It made for a great challenge. We can't look at anything as a treat -- just a challenge."

Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said that while some individual efforts have encouraged him, "it gets back to our team players and how they sync right now."

"It's obviously embarrassing to lose five straight," said Panthers defenseman Filip Kuba. "It's not the right time to lose five straight. It's not the right time to put our heads down and feel sorry for ourselves. We got another game coming and forty-something games left, so we haven't figure out quickly what we have to do to get ready and get better."

There was much to figure out. The Lightning was buzzing from the outset, back-checking well and pouring into the Panther zone. Florida was routinely a step late on offense and defense. Lecavalier, Cory Conacher, Dana Tyrell and Tom Pyatt had a goal and an assist for Lightning.

Tampa Bay, which has outscored opponents 10-3, in the first period this season, scored twice to lead 2-1 after in the first 20 minutes. Steven Stamkos gave the Lightning a 1-0 with 8:51 left when he followed his own rebound for a power play goal over Jose Theodore's shoulder from the right side. It was his fourth of the season.

Florida answered just 15 seconds later, however, as Peter Mueller scored unassisted. But rookie Cory Conacher's third goal of the season put the Lightning back ahead 80 seconds later as he flipped the puck past Theodore as he was being hauled down from behind by Mike Weaver in transition.

Conacher said he was lucky to have "enough gas in my legs to just beat Weaver and happen to scoop it by Theodore," but Boucher said the move was an indicator of broader skill.

"That's a scorer's goal," he said of the finish of a Victor Hedman pass. "That's tough to do. He wasn't just throwing the puck at the net. He actually aimed it."

Pyatt gave the Lightning a 3-1 lead less than four minutes into the second period off a pass from Tyrell as he jostled for position with defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

Pyatt returned the favor with 4:21 left in the period when he fed Tyrell from behind the net and the center punched his first goal of the season in from his knees. Tampa Bay led, 4-1, after two periods.

Lecavalier added a power play goal with 5:47 left, but Tomas Fleischmann managed a short-hander on a breakaway with 5:25 left.

NOTES: With a goal, Stamkos has at least a point in each of the first Lightning six games. ... The Lightning has scored a power play goal in five of six games. ... Lightning goalie Anders Lindback (26 saves) allowed a goal on the first Flyers' shot Sunday, but was sharp early on Tuesday, sprawling to stop Scottie Upshall's shot on a breakaway after the left wing intercepted an errant cross-ice pass at his blue from Martin St. Louis five minutes into the game. ... Rookie Conacher has at least a point in five of his first six games for the Lightning. ... Florida is tied for fewest goals in the league (10). The Lightning leads the league lead with 29 goals. ... Florida has a league-low two points in six games. ... Mueller and Fleischmann each scored once to tie defenseman Brian Campbell for the team lead (2). ... Pyatt recorded his first goal and assist of the season. ... The Lightning outscored an opponent in the second period for the first time this season. ... Theodore had 28 saves.

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