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Lightning cruise past Panthers for fifth straight win

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. -- Martin St. Louis and the Tampa Bay Lightning continue to roll despite the absence of Steven Stamkos.

St. Louis had a goal and two assists and J.T. Brown scored twice Monday night, leading the Lightning to a 6-1 win against the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center. Tampa Bay has won five in a row, a season high.

"There's no better player that I want to play with than Stammer," St. Louis said. "In my mind, the guy is the best goal scorer in the League. When he goes down you have to reinvent yourself a little bit and find different ways. We're all going to be better when Stammer comes back."

Valtteri Filppula had a goal and an assist and Victor Hedman had two assists for the Lightning, who had a four-game winning streak in early November. Alex Killorn and Tyler Johnson had the other goals.

St. Louis and Filppula each extended their point streaks to five games.

"I don't think we've had a better player on our team in the last eight games than 26," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "He's the captain and he's led the way for us. Marty has clearly put the team on his back of late. It's been great to see. He's leading us and a large part of winning five straight is Marty St. Louis."

Ben Bishop made 28 saves for his 20th victory of the season (20-5-2).

Tampa Bay improved to 11-6-3 since Stamkos suffered a broken leg in a game against the Boston Bruins on Nov. 11.

Sean Bergenheim scored for the Panthers, who lost their second straight after putting together a season-high five-game winning streak. Florida also had a four-game home winning streak snapped.

Florida was playing at home for the first time since going 3-1 on a Canadian road trip last week.

Scott Clemmensen stopped 31 shots, but had his personal four-game winning streak stopped.

"Maybe it was that old adage of the road trip or whatever, but it got worse as the game went on," said Panthers interim coach Peter Horachek, who suffered his most lopsided loss since replacing Kevin Dineen on Nov. 8. "They didn't play with a lot of energy, a lot of conviction or resolve. They kind of left Clem there hanging quite a few times.

"The guys didn't really have a lot of push-back. It was probably the worst game since I've been here for sure."

The Lightning have beaten Florida in all three games this season and have taken the past six games against each other at BB&T Center. The final game between the teams this season will be on March 13 at Tampa Bay Times Forum.

Florida played Monday without defenseman Erik Gudbranson, who underwent orbital bone surgery earlier in the day. The Panthers lost forward Scottie Upshall to an upper-body injury in the first period.

Horachek said that Upshall would undergo tests on Tuesday morning.

Already without veteran defenseman Eric Brewer, who missed the game with an upper-body injury, Tampa Bay lost defenseman Sami Salo to an upper-body injury in the first period. Salo didn't return to the game, but Cooper said the injury did not appear serious.

The Lightning broke open a 1-1 game with three unanswered goals in the second period.

After Bishop stopped Brad Boyes on a breakaway 15 seconds into the second, Johnson gave the Lightning the lead at 3:22 after Hedman's shot from the left circle went wide and bounced off the boards. The carom found Johnson standing to the right of the net and he put home the rebound from a sharp angle.

Filppula scored at 8:01 on a two-minute 5-on-3 power play after the Panthers were penalized for too many men on the ice and defenseman Tom Gilbert was called for hooking St. Louis on a partial breakaway.

"We've got to be better at that on the bench," Panthers defenseman Mike Weaver said. "We can't have too many men on the ice. It shouldn't happen. Being down two men for that length of time, it's never good. If you kill it, you get that momentum, but we didn't kill it and they scored on us and it was a little bit of a downer."

St. Louis fed Teddy Purcell for a one-timer from the slot, but his shot was partially blocked by the stick of Florida forward Marcel Goc. The puck still went forward to Filppula in the slot, and he turned around and fired a low shot to beat Clemmensen.

St. Louis completed the second-period scoring on a one-timer off an Ondrej Palat's cross-ice pass. St. Louis didn’t hit the puck cleanly, but it still found its way past Clemmensen.

"Marty was huge," Killorn said. "He opened up the flood gates and made some great plays and scored a pretty nice goal too. He's obviously a leader on our team and we look to him for strong play. He came up huge in the second and everyone kind of followed his lead."

Florida took a 1-0 lead with 1:04 left in the first period on Bergenheim's power-play goal. Defenseman Matt Carle's clearing attempt was stopped by Panthers rookie Aleksander Barkov and the puck bounced to the slot to Bergenheim, who caught Bishop off guard with a one-timer.

Tampa Bay tied it 19 seconds later when Killorn beat Clemmensen with a short backhand from the front of the net.

"It wasn't so much the second (period), it was the answer after they scored," Cooper said. "We had a couple of really good penalty kills and made an unfortunate error that ended up in the back of our net. A big turning point for us was scoring on the next shift. We went into the room 1-1 and we came out flying.

"It helped to get the 5-on-3. It was obviously a bad break for them. We smelled it. The boys got after it. We're riding some momentum going in to Christmas. The boys played well."

Brown put the game out of reach with two goals in the third period. He made it 5-1 at 3:40 before adding his fourth of the season at 13:36.

"It was disappointing," Panthers center Shawn Matthias said. "We just didn't play well tonight. They're too good a team to play like that against. It's disappointing to play like that before the [Christmas] break."

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