The Tampa Bay Lightning
had two days to chew on a dreadful performance at home against Toronto. They were determined not to have a similar showing in the front end of a home-and-home series against the Florida Panthers
' power-play goal 2:29 into overtime gave the Lightning a 2-1 victory against the Panthers before a sellout crowd at BankAtlantic Center on Friday night.
"We definitely wanted to bounce back after that Toronto game, since we weren’t pleased with that effort,” Stamkos said of Tuesday's 7-1 pasting at the St. Pete Times Forum. "We never gave up all game and we wanted to get back on track here, so we did."
With Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov
in the penalty box for taking down Vincent Lecavalier
, the Lightning worked the puck around until Martin St. Louis
slid a perfect pass to Stamkos in the left circle for a one-timer that beat Jose Theodore
to the short side for his 12th of the season.
"I didn't generate much during (regulation)," Stamkos said. "I was glad to get that one in. It was a great play by Marty."
The Lightning (10-9-2) won the opener of a home-and-home series that concludes in Tampa on Saturday. It will be the fifth meeting of the season between the Sunshine State rivals; they've split the first four, with three going past regulation.
"They’re a good team,” Lecavalier said. "Playing a divisional game back-to-back on two consecutive nights will be a great opportunity for us to get back above .500.”
The loss ended a three-game winning streak for the Panthers (12-6-4), who lead the Southeast Division by three points on Washington. The last time the Panthers were in first place this late in the season was through 68 games on March 10, 2000.
Theodore made 29 saves for the Panthers, whose four overtime and shootout losses have all come at home.
"We had some opportunities and the game certainly wasn't the pace that our team has played for our vast majority of the games," Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. "At the end of it, we did have some great opportunities. Unfortunately you don't end up on the top of it. Disappointing loss for us."
Florida took the lead at 12:38 of the second period after Stephen Weiss
blocked a shot and triggered a 2-on-1 break. Weiss carried down the left side into the Lightning zone before sliding a pass to Tomas Fleischman, who beat Mathieu Garon
for his 10th of the season.
Lecavalier tied it at 8:59 of the third through his own persistence. Theodore denied him twice from close in after a turnover in the Florida zone, but Lecavalier kept at it and whacked the third try past a defenseless Theodore.
Lecavalier also drew the penalty on Kulikov that turned into Stamkos' third career OT winner.
"They had a full two minutes, and that's hard to kill," Dineen said. "They had a lot of talented players on the ice."
Material from team media was used in this report