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Ekblad, Pirri help Panthers defeat Lightning

by Corey Long /

TAMPA -- Brandon Pirri scored the only goal in the shootout to give the Florida Panthers a 5-4 win against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad tied the game with a power-play goal with 38 seconds left in the third period after Tampa Bay forward Ryan Callahan was whistled for delay of game for sending the puck over the glass at 19:17.

"That was just awesome," Ekblad said. "Guys are excited after a win like that. Confidence is what it's all about. It's a good rivalry; sometimes that gets overlooked."

Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo stopped Victor Hedman, Brian Boyle and Valtteri Filppula in the shootout. Luongo, who made 24 saves, also stopped Steven Stamkos on a penalty shot with 1:51 remaining in overtime.

"It was definitely one of the craziest games I've ever played," Luongo said. "It's a good character win for the boys. We stuck with it and got a big goal at the end to tie it up. Pirri scored a great goal in the shootout, and we were able to hold it there."

Pirri scored on a penalty shot in the second period for the Panthers (7-7-3), who also got goals from Jussi Jokinen and Nick Bjugstad.

Vladislav Namestnikov, who was moved to the top line with Stamkos and Callahan earlier in the week, scored two goals for the Lightning (8-8-3), and Cedric Paquette and Anton Stralman each had a goal.

Namestnikov gave the Lightning a 4-3 lead at 9:56 of the third period. He was camped out in front of Luongo and scored after Stamkos worked the puck to the front of the net.

"I thought we played a great game and had bad luck at the end there with the penalty," Namestnikov said. "To score goals always adds to confidence, but you have to keep working and getting better. It's hard, but we will regroup and get ready for the next game."

Pirri's penalty-shot goal gave Florida a 3-2 lead at 4:47 of the second period. After being hooked by defenseman Matthew Carle on a breakaway, he went to the five-hole to get the puck past Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.

"I played Bishop a lot in the minors, so it was kind of a thinking match," Pirri said. "This was huge. We've practiced this so much. And [Luongo] gives us a chance every night. It's a tough building to play in against a really good team, but we worked hard and deserved that one."

Stralman tied it 3-3 on his first goal of the season when he followed up a shot by Alex Killorn during a scramble in front of Luongo at 7:49 of the second.

"We put the puck in the back of the net, but we had a couple of breakdowns, and they took advantage," Stralman said. "It stings a little, obviously, but it happens and it's going to happen again to us. But we had our chances."

Namestnikov gave the Lightning a 2-1 lead at 1:02 of the second period with one of the easier goals he's going to score in the NHL. Luongo lost his balance while moving from side to side and fell down, leaving an open net for Namestnikov.

The Panthers quickly responded with Bjugstad's sixth goal at 2:39 of the second. The opportunity came when he recovered a bad pass that Lightning forward Erik Condra misplayed at the blue line.

"We battled back and we found a way," Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. "It was really good for our hockey team, so we just got to build on it. We're back to .500. We beat a real good team in their building. We play them again Monday night, but we've got to be better so we need to keep getting better and getting points."

Jokinen gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead at 4:48 in the first period. Vincent Trocheck and Brian Campbell had the assists.

Paquette tied the game at 15:22 of the first when he cleaned up a rebound off a shot from J.T. Brown that hit the post.

"I thought we got stronger as the game went on," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "The first period was kind of the lull. We did a lot of good things. We had the lead until the end and unfortunately we took a penalty. It barely went over [the boards too]. I needed to be a little bit taller, could have batted that one out of the air."

Prior to the game, there was a moment of silence to honor the victims of the attacks in Paris on Friday.

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