Tampa Bay (42-30-5) at Florida (34-34-9)

Partly Cloudy Currently: Sunrise, FL
Temp: 88° F
  • Game info: 5:00 pm EDT Sun Apr 9, 2006
  • TV: SUN, FSFL
Preview | Box Score | Recap

The reigning NHL Stanley Cup champion Lightning have won three straight to remain in contention for one of the final Eastern Conference playoff spots.

Tampa Bay can solidify its chances to try and defend the championship when they face off against the Florida Panthers.

The Lightning have 89 points, tying them with the Canadiens for the final playoff berth in the East. Both Tampa Bay and Montreal have a six-point lead over ninth-place Atlanta, and all three teams have five games remaining.

Tampa Bay extended a team record with its eighth straight home win, beating Pittsburgh 1-0 on Saturday. Sean Burke made 25 saves for his 37th career shutout and Vincent Lecavalier scored his team-high 35th goal.

“It’s always a good feeling,” Burke said. “You want to contribute. You want to be a guy your team has confidence in. When you can go out there and do the job, that’s why you play.”

Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella was more direct.

“It’s an ugly two points, but you have to win them,” he said.

The Lightning have dropped three straight in south Florida, and have just one win in their last seven visits there.

The Panthers, who have missed the playoffs for the fifth straight season, are trying to end a three-game slide. Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester scored the lone goal in Florida’s 5-1 loss Friday to Pittsburgh.

The Panthers were looking for their 13th straight win over the Penguins since March 5, 2002.

“We’ve been playing at a high level now for a month-and-a-half but there’s no excuses,” said Florida forward Chris Gratton. “We let down in all areas. We’re embarrassed to play like that in front of our fans.”

Gratton, drafted third overall by Tampa Bay in 1993, has three goals in seven games this season against his former team. home.

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