TAMPA, Fla. - Martin St. Louis believes the Tampa Bay Lightning have the resolve necessary to get their season on track.
"We know it's going to turn around. We've just got to keep plugging away and believe in each other," St. Louis said Wednesday night after the Lightning ended a six-game losing streak with a 3-1 victory over the Florida Panthers.
St. Louis and Jan Hlavac scored first-period goals and Johan Holmqvist stopped 22 shots for the Lightning, who won for just the third time in 12 games following a 3-0 start. They are 0-7 on the road, compared to 6-1-1 at home.
"We haven't forgotten what our identity is and what we think we can do as a club. We can't," Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella said.
"If you start second-guessing all that because of a losing streak, then it's gonna be a long year. So you have to try to keep yourself straightened out mentally about how good we can be."
Two nights after losing 4-3 at Florida, the Lightning tied the season series between the intrastate rivals at two games apiece. The home team has won each of the meetings.
Slow starts had been a problem for the Lightning against the Panthers. Florida outscored them 5-2 in the opening period of the previous three games.
But Tampa Bay took control early this time.
Hlavac scored his second goal of the year less than two minutes into the game. St. Louis added his fourth, with an assist from Vincent Lecavalier, less than five minutes later for a 2-0 lead that proved to be enough cushion for Holmqvist.
"We gave them two goals right off the bat. Some turnovers, and the puck's in your net," Panthers coach Jacques Martin said. "Against a team like that, you can't give them easy goals. You've got to make them earn those goals."
The Panthers trimmed their deficit to 2-1 on Kamil Kreps' first goal of the season and kept it close by killing six penalties in the first two periods. Florida goalie Tomas Vokoun stopped 14 shots in the second period and eight more in the third to finish with 31 saves.
Lecavalier scored an empty-net goal with just under a minute to go to make it 3-1.
Holmqvist, who entered the game with a 3.28 goals against average, was solid all night. He made several nice saves in the second period and helped preserve Tampa Bay's slender lead with nine saves in the final 20 minutes.
"The third was probably one of our better periods," Martin said. "We had some chances. But bottom line, you can't turn the puck over and give them opportunities like we did."
The Lightning played without defenceman Dan Boyle, who will undergo surgery Friday to repair damaged tendons in his left wrist. He was injured Sept. 22 when a skate slipped from a hook above his locker, then missed the first 10 games of the season.
Boyle, who's on injured reserve and out indefinitely, appeared in four games before an MRI exam this week revealed two of the three tendons repaired during surgery on Sept. 23 had not healed properly. The team was 0-4 in the games he played.
Notes: Lecavalier has one goal and five assists in four games against the Panthers this season. He has four goals and eight assists in his past eight games overall. ... The Lightning finished 0-for-6 on power-play opportunities, and the Panthers were 0-for-2.