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Panthers edge Lightning for third straight win

by Lonnie Herman /

TAMPA -- Jacob Markstrom showed Tuesday night why he's the goaltender of the future for the Florida Panthers.

Markstrom stopped 39 shots through 65 minutes, then denied all three attempts in the shootout as the Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 for their season-high third win in a row -- all of which have come after regulation.

Peter Mueller beat Mathieu Garon for the only goal in the tiebreaker as the Panthers snapped a seven-game losing streak to their in-state rival.

Markstrom stopped Teddy Purcell, Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos in the shootout to nail down the win. He also made several acrobatic stops among his 39 saves before the tiebreaker.

"Tonight he was the difference," Panther coach Kevin Dineen said. "To me, he was the player of the game. They had a lot of quality shots but Markstrom stood tall."

The Panthers (12-19-6) had to withstand Tampa Bay's third-period comeback, which saw the Lightning score twice in a span of 4:56 to tie the game.

Entering the final 20 minutes trailing 2-0, Tampa Bay swarmed the Florida net, firing 13 shots and another four in overtime on Markstrom, who came up with a big save time after time.

"We knew they were going to come hard in the third period," Markstrom said. "We were up by two goals so they didn't have a choice."

Florida opened a lead by converting both of its power-play opportunities in the game. Both goals came with Tampa Bay's Tom Pyatt in the penalty box.

Tomas Kopecky began the scoring for Florida when he deflected a shot by TJ Brennan and sent the puck past Garon at 8:36 of the opening period, just 13 seconds after Pyatt was sent to the box for hooking. Kopecky's goal, his 13th of the season, came after Tomas Fleischmann cleanly won the faceoff.

Greg Rallo made it 2-0 at 16:41 of the second period with his first NHL goal in his fifth career game when he deflected a shot that Brennan fired into heavy traffic from the left point past Garon. This time Pyatt was off for interference.

Pyatt made some amends when he crashed the net and redirected Purcell's centering feed past Markstrom at 5:38 of the third period for his seventh goal of the season. He now has four points [two goals, two assists] in four games against Florida this season.

"For me to take two penalties is kind of rare," said Pyatt, who went into the game with six penalty minutes for the season, "but that's the way it goes sometimes."

Alex Killorn tied it at 10:32 when he got his stick on a blast by Hedman that went wide of the net and bounced out in front. Markstrom had moved out of the crease to cut down the angle and was caught as Killorn slipped the puck between the netminder and the right post for his sixth goal of the season. Purcell also assisted on Killorn's goal for his second point of the game.

"I thought we deserved better," Pyatt said of going home with one point instead of two. "It was nice to come back and it would have been nice to get two points but their goalie was unbelievable. We had so many chances; chances in tight, Grade A chances. That's the way it goes sometimes, you get beat by a goaltender."

The Panthers enter a three-day break, their only one of the season, before they host the Washington Capitals on Saturday night.

"That's a nice way to enter some free time," Dineen said.

Tampa Bay (15-18-2) had its home win streak snapped at four games. The Lightning head out on the road for three games before returning home on April 9 against the Ottawa Senators.

The 41 shots that the Lightning registered on net in the game was their highest total in a game since they fired 45 against Montreal on March 5, 2011.

Despite the loss, new Lightning coach Jon Cooper found some positives in his second game behind the bench.

"I thought we got stronger as the game went on," Cooper said. "In the third period and the overtime, we had the puck most of the time. I liked our effort tonight. I told the guys that if we play like that night in and night out, we are going to win more games than we lose."

In the end, Markstrom was just too good.

"Their goalie stood tall," Cooper said. "Give the better goaltender credit. He was really good tonight."

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