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Panthers 4, Lightning 2 @NHLdotcom

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - Roberto Luongo was confident, even when he was running out of energy.

Joe Nieuwendyk scored twice and Luongo stopped 42 shots, including 24 in the third period, to help the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-2 Saturday night.

Nathan Horton and Olli Jokinen also scored for the Panthers, who moved to six points behind the Lightning for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. Florida plays at Tampa on Monday and then hosts the Lightning the following Sunday.

"They were throwing everything at the net and I got lucky a couple of times." Luongo said. "I was getting a little tired but I was confident I could protect the lead. We're playing them two more times but this first one is done."

Martin St. Louis and Darryl Sydor scored for Tampa Bay, and John Grahame had 22 saves before being replaced by Sean Burke late in the second period.

Nieuwendyk's second goal of the game, a shot from above the right circle that went over Grahame's shoulder, put Florida ahead 4-1 at 15:43 of the second. Burke replaced Grahame after the goal and finished with nine saves.

"We were sloppy from the start. That's why we were down 4-1," said Tampa Bay's Brad Richards, who had two assists. "We put together a very good third but they've got a great goalie and we just ran out of time."

Tampa Bay closed the gap to 4-2 at 3:48 of the third on Sydor's power-play goal.

"We had a lot of chances and a couple empty nets," Sydor said. "Luongo made a few big saves on shots that are normally goals."

Florida scored just 24 seconds into the game. Nieuwendyk brought the puck off the rear boards and it bounced off the side of the net. Horton was waiting for the rebound and beat Grahame glove side.

Tampa Bay tied it at 6:18. St. Louis got the rebound of a shot by Richards in the left circle and his slap shot got past Luongo.

The Panthers took a 2-1 lead with just over a minute left in the opening period as Gary Roberts passed from behind the net to Nieuwendyk, who deflected the puck into the net.

"Gary made a great pass and I had a good burst of speed coming out of the penalty box and I was at the side where I like to shoot," Nieuwendyk said. "I was fortunate to get some good wood on it. Now we have to forget about tonight's win and think about playing them on Monday."

Florida made it 3-1 when Jokinen knocked in a rebound of Jay Boumeester's shot at 8:22 of the second.

"Tampa is the team we have to focus on," Roberts said. "They're a great team and they are not going to give us anything. We have a day off Sunday an we'll recharge the batteries for a big game Monday night."

Notes: Luongo has won his last four starts against the Lightning. ... Richards has two goals and 14 assists in an eight-game points streak. ... Florida's Jozef Stumpel missed his second straight game due to a left hip flexor. ... The Panthers have won 11 of 13 and five in a row at home.

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