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Lightning rally past Panthers in overtime

by Alain Poupart

SUNRISE, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning had a third consecutive third-period comeback Saturday afternoon. This time, they made it count.

Benoit Pouliot scored his second goal 1:19 into overtime as the Lightning rallied from a two-goal deficit and snapped a six-game losing streak by beating the Florida Panthers 6-5.

In their previous game Thursday, the Lightning trailed 4-1 in the third period before losing 4-3 against Washington. On Tuesday, Tampa Bay erased a 3-0 third-period deficit before losing to Montreal 4-3 in a shootout.

"There's a lot of adversity we've been battling," Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. "We almost came back the last game and the game before that, and I'm just happy that this time it paid off."

Pouliot scored on an easy tap-in after Marc-Andre Bergeron's shot from close range went wide but bounced off the backboards and caromed off the skate of Florida defenseman Tyson Strachan to the front of the net.

"I was surprised it came back in front," Pouliot said. "I just put my head down and went to the net. It made a weird bounce and came back out to me and I just put it in.

"Coming out of here with a big win like this, it's going to be huge for us."

The Lightning sent the game to overtime when Teddy Purcell scored with 10.4 seconds left in regulation.

With Anders Lindback on the bench for an extra attacker, Purcell tied the game after Steven Stamkos won a battle behind the net and fed him a backhand pass in the slot. Purcell was all alone when he one-timed a shot that beat Jose Theodore high to the stick side.

"I knew the puck was going to come out to the front," Purcell said. "I was just trying to get a little space away from the defenders, and I was luckily uncovered and I was able to one-time it on net.

"It's great to score in that situation. To be able to contribute and help the team get a point and to give us a chance in overtime at least was a good feeling. Then for Pouliot to get us that goal in overtime was huge."

Stamkos began Tampa Bay's comeback with his second of the game at 7:28 with a 4-on-3 power-play goal when he one-timed a slap shot from the left faceoff dot.

While beating the Panthers for the sixth consecutive time dating back to last season, the Lightning also extended Florida's losing streak to four games (0-1-3). Tampa Bay, which improved to 7-0-0 when leading after the first period, won for the first time since beating Winnipeg 8-3 at home on Feb. 1.

"It wasn't the way we envisioned getting out of this slump, but once again we like spotting teams leads," Stamkos said. "But we answered the challenge and came back. It's tough to do in this League."

Rookie Alexander Killorn scored his first career goal for the Lightning, while Stamkos had two goals and an assist, snapping a five-game goal-less skid.

Purcell and Martin St. Louis each had two assists.

Lindback, back in net after missing Thursday's game against Washington because of illness, made 25 saves.

Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky scored 1:31 apart early in the third period to give Florida a 5-3 lead. Shawn Matthias and Jack Skille each had a goal and an assist for the Panthers, who lost in overtime for the third consecutive game.

Jerred Smithson had the other Florida goal, while veteran defenseman Mike Weaver matched his career high with two assists. Jose Theodore stopped 30 shots.

"It's not Jose's fault -- it's the five guys in front of him working as a group, as one, reading off each other, covering for each other," Smithson said. "At that point of the game, you have to put teams away. You have to work to get that puck out, you have to do things the hard way. We obviously didn't do it and let another point slip away."

It was the second time this week the Panthers squandered a 5-3 third-period lead; they did the same thing Tuesday night in a 6-5 overtime loss to Washington.

"Right now there's a confidence factor that plays into it," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. "You get stung like this as many times as we have in a row, then there is a little bit of a confidence factor. But I believe we have the right guys that can go out there and get the job completed."

After not going past regulation in any of their first eight games, the Panthers have played extra hockey five times in their last six. They're 1-4 in those games, the only victory coming in a shootout on Feb. 7 against the Philadelphia Flyers.

"You're not going to get in the playoffs with 48 points," Dineen said. "You can't try to get a point a game, it's just not going to work. We've got to find a way to get a more complete effort and end up with two points, specifically here at home, which we failed to do this week."

Florida is 0-4-2 against the Lightning since a 7-4 victory at Tampa Bay on Oct. 17, 2011.

The game was tied 3-3 entering the third period after Smithson scored with 4.2 seconds left in the second period. Following a turnover in the Tampa Bay zone, Smithson fired the puck toward the net, but it hit teammate Alex Kovalev instead. Kovalev then put a backhander on net before Smithson poked home the rebound.

Smithson had gone 77 games without a goal since scoring against the New Jersey Devils on Oct. 15, 2011 while a member of the Nashville Predators.

"I don't even pay attention to that," Smithson said. "It's nice to contribute when I can. I obviously would like to do it more, but two points is way more important than me scoring goals."

Huberdeau gave Florida the lead at 1:53 of the third when he redirected Drew Shore's pass across the crease behind Lindback. The goal was Huberdeau's sixth of the season, tying him with St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko for the most among rookies in the NHL.

Kopecky scored at 3:24 on a delayed penalty. Kopecky scored from a sharp angle after Stephen Weiss' pass attempt to the front of the net was blocked by a Tampa Bay defenseman.

"Everybody was contributing, we were playing a really solid game, got up two goals and it was almost identical to that Washington game," Skille said. "We've just got to find a way to preserve those leads."

After being shut out twice in their last three games, the Panthers needed only 48 seconds to get on the board in this one. Matthias scored the Panthers' fastest goal of the season when he tipped in Weaver's wrist shot from the point.

Pouliot tied it at 4:48 after two nifty passes from St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier, and Killorn scored at 6:51 when his seemingly harmless wrist shot from the slot found its way between Theodore's pads.

"It felt really good," said Killorn, who made his NHL debut last Sunday against the New York Rangers and was playing in his fourth game. "It was not a great shot or anything like that, but that's usually how the first one goes in."

Skille tied the game 2:27 into the second period after Weaver blocked B.J. Crombeen's dump-in attempt at the blue line. Matthias grabbed the loose puck and flipped a backhanded saucer pass to the slot to Skille, who one-timed it past Lindback.

Stamkos gave Tampa Bay the lead again at 1:15 later on a rebound after Theodore had made a spectacular save on Purcell's redirection.

"We never quit," Stamkos said. "That's never a question and never will be a question and we showed it again tonight."

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