Skip to main content

Panthers-Lightning Preview @NHL

Rick Tocchet couldn't end the Tampa Bay Lightning's woes in his first game behind the bench.

The Lightning will again try to give Tocchet a victory and seek to halt a four-game losing streak on Tuesday, when they host the Florida Panthers in the clubs' second matchup in less than a week.

Tampa Bay (5-7-5) fired Barry Melrose on Friday and replaced him with Tocchet, an 18-year NHL veteran who had coached on Phoenix's staff last season.

Melrose, who returned to coaching following a 13-year absence, had struggled during his brief tenure - a stretch that included the first three games of the current slide - and joined Chicago's Denis Savard as coaches fired already this season.

Despite the personnel change, the results were the same for the Lightning, who fell 3-2 in a shootout at Carolina on Sunday in Tocchet's debut. They were outshot for the third straight time and the fifth time in seven games, while suffering their eighth one-goal defeat of the season.

With another loss Tuesday, Tampa Bay would match its season-opening five-game slide (0-2-3).

Tocchet was nonetheless encouraged by the performance, which helped Tampa Bay collect its first point since winning in Philadelphia on Nov. 8.

"It's a step in the right direction," he said. "I thought the guys played well, I think they're really starting to get what we're trying to do here."

Among the changes Tocchet implemented for his first game, he reunited the line of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis and Vaclav Prospal. Lecavalier - leading the Lightning with seven goals - and St. Louis responded by scoring goals in the same game for the first time in 2008-09.

"This is our first crack at it," said St. Louis, who has three goals and four assists in his last seven games and leads Tampa Bay with 13 points. "I wish we had a better outcome, but I thought we stuck together. We battled hard."

Tampa Bay never seriously threatened Florida (6-9-1) in their matchup last Wednesday, a 4-0 Panthers home win.

Gregory Campbell had two goals and an assist while Nathan Horton scored one goal and set up another in that contest for the Panthers, who are two points behind the Lightning at the bottom of the Southeast Division and expect a stiffer challenge in Tuesday's rematch.

"They're going to come out a lot harder," defenseman Keith Ballard told the Panthers' official Web site. "I don't think that (Wednesday) was their best game. They didn't compete hard enough and we're going to see that (Tuesday)."

This game opens a three-game road trip for Florida, which rallied back from a two-goal deficit Sunday before falling 3-2 to Detroit. Richard Zednik had a goal and an assist, but the Panthers fell to 2-6-1 in their last nine contests.

"We're definitely not into moral victories," Ballard said. "(Sunday night) you can say we played a pretty good game, we played hard, we outplayed them in the second, but at the end of the day, we don't have any points out of it. We need to get points every night."

Collecting points in Tampa Bay hasn't been easy for the Panthers lately. They lost three of four visits to St. Pete Times Forum last season, and are 5-10-1 with two ties in their last 18 road games against the Lightning.

View More