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Panthers' playoff push takes a hit with 3-1 loss at Tampa Bay Lightning

NHL.com @NHL

TAMPA, Fla. - Jeff Halpern had a goal and an assist and the Tampa Bay Lightning beat Florida 3-1 on Tuesday night, hurting the Panthers' late playoff push.

Florida, 8-1-1 in its last 10 games, entered the game 11th in the Eastern Conference, three points behind eighth-place Boston for the final playoff spot.

Michel Ouellet scored three minutes into the first period for Tampa Bay, which has lost 13 of 18 and has the worst record in the Eastern Conference. Halpern and defenceman Dan Boyle assisted on the play.

A mistake by Boyle helped the Panthers tie the game in the second. Boyle, looking to clear the puck from the Tampa Bay zone, whiffed and the puck was stolen by David Booth, who scored on a wrist shot past Karri Ramo.

Halpern gave Tampa a 2-1 lead 1:11 into the final period with his 17th goal of the season.

Lightning defenceman Filip Kuba added an empty-net goal with 51.2 second left in the game.

Tomas Vokoun stopped 23 shots for Florida.

Ramo, who got a rare start in place of Mike Smith, made 34 saves for the Lightning and picked up his sixth win in 19 games. Smith hurt his knee in practice on Monday.

The Lightning outshot the Panthers 11-7 in the first, but were outshot 16-4 in the second due to numerous turnovers.

The Panthers, who played back-to-back games against the Lightning, face Atlanta on Thursday, the team with the second-worst record in the Eastern Conference at 75 points.

Notes: Panthers LW Jozef Stumpel returned after missing the previous 23 games with a shoulder injury. ... Halpern played after missing one game because of an abdominal strain. ... Florida LW Ville Peltonen was out of the lineup with a broken toe he suffered in Saturday's 4-2 win against Tampa Bay.

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