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Lightning beat Panthers for fourth straight win

by Lonnie Herman /

TAMPA -- The Tampa Bay Lightning are getting goals from their big guns. But they're also getting the kind of secondary scoring that makes teams successful.

Steven Stamkos had a goal and extended his points streak to six games. But rookie Cory Conacher and the unlikely third-line duo of Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell each had a goal and assist as the Lightning remained unbeaten at home by beating the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Tuesday night.

The Lightning, the NHL's highest-scoring team in the early going, delighted their fourth straight sellout crowd of 19,204 as they improved to 5-1-0 overall and 4-0-0 at home.

The Lightning jumped ahead on their first extra-man opportunity of the game when Stamkos took a pass from Martin St. Louis just outside the crease to the left of goaltender Jose Theodore and put home his own rebound for his fourth goal. Last season's Rocket Richard Trophy winner has 11 points and at least one in all six of the Lightning's games.

That lead held up for only 15 seconds as Peter Mueller picked off a pass in the Lightning end and beat goaltender Anders Lindback for his second of the season.

Conacher put Tampa Bay ahead to stay 85 seconds later when he took a perfect breakout pass from Victor Hedman and barreled in on Theodore with defenseman Mike Weaver hanging on his back. Conacher moved the puck from his backhand to his forehand and shot back across Theodore for the goal.

"I came in between periods and I said, 'that's a scorer's goal,'" Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "That's tough, what he did. He had someone all over him and he actually reacted. It wasn't just throwing the puck at the net, he actually aimed. That's unbelievable."

Pyatt and Tyrell went to work in the second period as the Lightning extended their lead to 4-1.

Pyatt stuck first, just 3:18 into the period, when he got his stick on a bouncing pass from Tyrell and directed the puck passed Theodore.

"It's nice to get a few goals early in the season," Pyatt said. "I'm more confident and more comfortable and I'm getting some bounces, too. Last year I got most of my goals from around the net so I charge the net and if you do that over and over again, you're going to get your goals."

At 15:39 it was Tyrell's turn, as he took a centering pass from behind the net from Pyatt and whacked the puck past Theodore for his first goal of the season. Benoit Pouliot had the other assist.

"What I really like is that we've created a third line that is looking really good," Boucher said. "All three are jets; they fly. Tyrell, Pyatt and Pouliot are really clicking right now. Right now, we are building a third line and I like it."

Vincent Lecavalier added some insurance in the third period, blasting a pass from Pouliot past Theodore at 14:13 for a power-play goal -- Tampa Bay's ninth in 30 chances.

Tomas Fleischmann added a shorthanded goal for Florida 18 seconds after Lecavalier's goal.

Lindback stopped 26 shots for his third consecutive victory. Theodore, who's lost four of his five decisions, made 28 saves

The loss was the Panthers' fifth in a row after they opened the season by whipping Carolina. The frustration of losing was evident in the dressing room.

"It's no fun right now," forward Tomas Kopecky said. "I'm going to start with myself. I'm not going to be looking around. I know I've got to be better, and that's the bottom line. We as a team, we know how to play. It's just about execution.

"Obviously right now we're not getting any bounces, but we don't deserve them. We are not working hard. We are not competing hard enough, and all the 50-50 pucks, the other team is winning and we've got to change it. And it's got to change right now. It's too late right now, actually, so everybody here is fed up."

Coach Kevin Dineen echoed the frustration of his players.

"We've got to get this thing together and start pulling as a group. We have flashes here and there, and it's just not a concerted effort by everybody," Dineen said. "We're not playing well enough as a team, and the scoreboard is pretty accurate of the results of our efforts right now."

The Panthers will get another chance to break out of the slump on Thursday when they host the Winnipeg Jets, who come to Tampa on Friday.

There is no question that Boucher is pleased with how his team has broken out of the gate this season, but he is still calling for improvement.

"They're doing good things," Boucher said, "but they are not good yet."

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