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Stamkos seeks Richard Trophy in Bolts' finale

by Brian Hunter

LIGHTNING (33-36-12) at PANTHERS (32-36-13)

Last 10 --
Tampa Bay 5-5-0; Florida 3-5-2

Season series --
It's the sixth and final meeting of the in-state rivals and the completion of a home-and-home series that saw Tampa Bay claim a 4-3 shootout win at the St. Pete Times Forum on Saturday night. Florida, though, has captured three of the five matchups to this point.

Big story --
With neither team from the SunshineState headed to the Stanley Cup Playoffs, this two-game series has been all about one player -- Steven Stamkos. The second-year standout enters the final day of the regular season tied with Alex Ovechkin of Washington for the goal-scoring lead at 50, one more than Sidney Crosby of Pittsburgh. Not bad for a guy who was considered something of a disappointment the first half of his rookie season.

Team Scope:

Lightning --
Stamkos twice gave TampaBay the lead on Saturday with power-play goals and the Lightning led 3-1 midway through the second after Martin St. Louis scored, but it still took a shootout for them to pull out the two points. Big surprise who was responsible there -- it was Stamkos netting the only goal of the penalty-shot tiebreaker. Antero Niittymaki denied all three attempts by the Panthers after making 29 saves through regulation and overtime.

"I'm sure a lot of the guys were passing up opportunities and were trying to get the puck to me," Stamkos said. "I want to thank them for that. It was pretty special to do it on home ice in a win."

Panthers --
Florida needs a win over TampaBay on Sunday -- whether it be in regulation, overtime or a shootout -- in order to finish ahead of its Southeast Division rival in the standings. If the win comes after regulation, the teams would finish with identical records but the Panthers would have the tiebreaker by virtue of a better head-to-head mark. Stephen Weiss, Michael Frolik and Nathan Horton scored the goals on Saturday.

"Once we stopped taking penalties and started moving our feet ... I thought we played a good second and third period," coach Peter DeBoer said.

Who's hot --
Stamkos has 4 goals and 2 assists during a three-game points streak for the Lightning and has tied St. Louis for the team lead with 94 points. St. Louis has a goal and an assist in each of the last two games. ... Horton has 2 goals and 4 assists during a three-game points streak for the Panthers. Frolik has scored goals in consecutive games.

Injury report --
TampaBay played Saturday's game without defensemen David Hale (ankle/foot), Matt Smaby (back spasms) and Victor Hedman (upper body). ... Florida is missing goalie Tomas Vokoun (back) and forwards Gregory Campbell (foot), David Booth (concussion), Byron Bitz (elbow) and Cory Stillman (back).

Stat pack --
Stamkos leads the League with 24 power-play goals. He and captain Vincent Lecavalier (52 in 2006-07) are the only Lightning players to have recorded a 50-goal season. The only players in NHL history to have a 50-goal season at a younger age than Stamkos, currently 20 years, 2 months old, are Los Angeles' Jimmy Carson (55 in 1987-88, 19 years and 8 months) and Edmonton's Wayne Gretzky (51 in 1979-80, 19 years and 2 months).

Puck drop --
Washington and Pittsburgh are locked into the No. 1 and 4 seeds in the Eastern Conference respectively and their games Sunday mean nothing, so there's no guarantee Ovechkin and Crosby will even play. The Capitals host the Bruins at noon while the Lightning and Panthers don't play until 5 p.m. ET, so if Ovi does play, Stamkos will know when he takes the ice where he stands in the race for the Rocket Richard Trophy. The Penguins and Islanders also face off at 5 p.m.

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