TAMPA, Fla. - The Lightning were hoping Chris Gratton would provide offensive depth. They would have dropped from the ranks of the unbeaten three games into the season without him.
Gratton scored twice and Johan Holmqvist made 30 saves as Tampa Bay beat the Florida Panthers 2-1 on Wednesday night. The Lightning's top line of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vinny Prospal, which combined for six goals and 13 points during the first two games, didn't record a point against Florida.
"When the big line isn't going, we found a way," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said. "I thought Grats' line was probably our best line."
Gratton, reacquired by Tampa Bay from Florida for a 2008 second-round draft pick in June, has 14 career multi-goal games.
"It's always tough to play your former teammates," Gratton said. "It's nice to chip in against any team in the league. Our line has got to help out with the offence a little bit. We got a couple lucky breaks, but I thought it was a solid game by both teams."
Holmqvist has allowed four goals in three games this season, helping the Lightning start the season 3-0 for the just the third time in team history.
"Last year, most of those shots would go in," Florida captain Olli Jokinen said. "I think their goalie played probably the best game since he's been in the league, especially against us."
The Panthers got a goal from Ville Peltonen. Backup goalie Craig Anderson stopped 21 shots in his first appearance of the season.
"That was probably our best game since the start of the season," Florida coach Jacques Martin said. "I think we created some more chances and made some good saves. We just didn't finish at times, but we did a lot of things better."
Tampa Bay took a 2-1 lead when Gratton redirected Paul Ranger's shot during a power play with 9:24 left in the second. Peltonen had tied it 1-1 earlier in the period at 4:04.
Gratton put Tampa Bay up 1-0 with a rebound goal at 9:03 of the first. The goal came shortly after Holmqvist made a strong save on Nathan Horton's shot from the low slot.
Anderson stopped Lecavalier twice on breakaways during the final five minutes of the first. He got the start in place of the struggling Tomas Vokoun, who is 0-2 with a 4.54 goals-against-average and an .816 save percentage this season.
Florida had the first eight shots of the third, but Holmqvist was up to the challenge and stopped them all during the period's opening five minutes.
Tampa Bay was credited with 13 blocked shots, and also limited rebound opportunities.
"You need to have a purpose when you go to the net," Jokinen said. "You just don't go there because the coach tells you to go. You have to have that fire in your eyes. You have to think there's going to be a rebound. You have to be ready to put the puck in."
Notes: Martin coached his 1,019 NHL game, tying him for ninth on the all-time list with Pat Burns. ... Panthers forward Richard Zednik was in the lineup after missing the first two games of the season with a shoulder injury. ... Tampa Bay LW Mathieu Darche assisted on Gratton's first-period goal for his first point since Jan. 28, 2002. The veteran minor leaguer appeared in just five NHL games over the previous five years.