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Lightning-Panthers Preview @NHLdotcom

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been surging up the Southeast Division standings.

They'll look to take over first place in the division Saturday when they visit the Florida Panthers.

Tampa Bay (33-24-2) beat Washington 3-2 in a shootout on Thursday, moving within a point of Southeast-leading Atlanta. The Thrashers, who have dropped three straight, visit Ottawa on Saturday.

The Lightning have won three in a row and 14 of their last 17 games. Thursday's victory was their fourth straight at home, and they have won eight of nine on the road.

"I was happy we just got the one point to start with before the shootout because any point is good right now," coach John Tortorella said. "As much as I was (unhappy) at most of the game as far as our intensity level, you've got to give them high marks to find a way to get it done. Good teams find ways to get it done."

Center Vincent Lecavalier, who leads the NHL with a career-best 39 goals, has been a big part of Tampa Bay's surge. Lecavalier scored two goals for the second straight game Thursday and has 18 goals and 11 assists in his last 19 games.

Lecavalier set new career highs with his 14th power-play goal and his third short-handed score against the Capitals, and also matched his career best of 78 points, set in 2002-03. He is three goals and two power-play goals shy of Brian Bradley's team records set in 1992-93.

Dan Boyle assisted on Lecavalier's first goal to become the Lightning's all-time scoring leader for defensemen with 210 points.

"We keep after teams and keep pressuring them," Lecavalier said.

Marc Denis made 36 saves and has picked up shootout wins in each of his last two starts, including a 6-5 victory at Carolina on Jan. 20. Tampa Bay's other goalie, Johan Holmqvist, has won 11 of his last 13 starts.

Tampa Bay is 2-1-0 against Florida this season and has outscored the Panthers 10-5 in winning the last two meetings. Florida is coming off Wednesday's 4-0 loss at Ottawa - its eighth shutout defeat this season.

"A lot of the shots we had from outside were right in (Senators goalie Martin Gerber's) belly, and we didn't get a lot of rebounds," center Stephen Weiss said. "When there were rebounds we just didn't have enough guys in front of the net and we weren't hungry enough in front of the net, that's basically it. We weren't buzzing enough. I think we were just too cautious about getting caught."

Ed Belfour made 29 saves one night after stopping 29 shots in a 1-0 win at Montreal for his first shutout since April 3, 2004, and the 76th of his career. Belfour, 15-13-6 with a 2.75 goals-against average in 38 appearances this season, has dropped four of his last six starts.

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