Panthers-Lightning Preview

The Associated Press

The Tampa Bay Lightning have rebounded from three consecutive road losses with a pair of home wins.

So have the Eastern Conference-worst Florida Panthers - and they've bounced back against the same opponents.

Tampa Bay will look to stay undefeated since its recent coaching switch - and win an eighth straight in this Southeast Division matchup - on Tuesday night when the Panthers go for a season-best third consecutive victory.

With the club in danger of missing the playoffs for a second straight season, general manager Steve Yzerman fired Guy Boucher prior to a 3-2 loss to Winnipeg on March 24 that capped off an 0-3-0 trip. Tampa Bay (15-18-1), though, has won twice since Jon Cooper took over - 2-1 over Buffalo last Tuesday and 5-4 in a shootout against New Jersey on Friday. The latter was Cooper's first game on the bench as an NHL coach after watching Tuesday's win from an executive suite.

"The wave of emotions I had from when there's 17 seconds left to 15 seconds left was unbelievable," Cooper said after Alex Killorn's goal with 15.1 seconds left in regulation forced the extra session.

The Lightning haven't won three straight since a season-best five-game run from Jan. 22-Feb. 1. They're 14th in the Eastern Conference - three points ahead of last-place Florida (11-19-6) - but still have a chance to break into the top eight.

The Panthers could too if they can keep stringing wins together. They defeated Buffalo 5-4 in a shootout on Thursday and beat the Devils 3-2 in overtime on Saturday. Shawn Matthias' second goal - his team-best 14th - with 27 seconds left in regulation tied it, and Dmitry Kulikov netted the game-winner.

Florida's last three-game run came during a five-game stretch from March 11-20, 2012.

"We might be down, but we keep battling 'til the end," said Matthias, who has five goals in the last three games. "There were a lot of games where we did battle 'til the end and we didn't get the end result. Right now, guys are maturing."

With two assists on Saturday, Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau moved one point ahead of Tampa Bay's Cory Conacher for the league lead among NHL rookies with 25. Huberdeau also leads first-year players with 13 goals.

Lightning center Steven Stamkos has a league-high 25 after netting a pair on Friday.

He owns an eight-game point streak in this divisional series, totaling 10 goals and four assists. His four goals in the three wins this season lead Tampa Bay.

Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis, second in the league with 35 assists, has team highs of five assists and six points in those contests.

Mathieu Garon has yet to face Florida this season - Anders Lindback was in net for all three - but with his first set of back-to-back wins this season, he could get the call again. Garon has a 1.65 goals-against average while winning his last three in this series.

If goaltender Jacob Markstrom makes a third consecutive start, it will be his second against Tampa Bay in 2012-13. He made just 10 saves in a 3-2 home loss on March 12.

The Lightning, 5-2 winners on Jan. 29 in the Panthers' only visit this season, will be without center Nate Thompson for the next two games after he was suspended for an illegal check to the head against Matt D'Agostini on Friday.

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