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Panthers Wrap-Up: Panthers 5, Lightning 3

by Glenn Odebralski / Florida Panthers

1 2 3 OT T
Panthers 1 1 3 0 5
Lightning 2 1 0 0 3
FLA - N. Bjugstad (1), T. Fleischmann (11), S. Upshall (4), T. Fleischmann (12), S. Upshall (4), M. Goc (9)
TBL - M. Carle (5), R. Malone (6), M. St Louis (17)

TAMPA, Fla —  (AP) - The Florida Panthers and Martin St. Louis both got two points Saturday night.

Florida won the season finale for both teams by rallying to beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-3 at Tampa Bay Times Forum. But St. Louis had a goal and an assist for the Lightning, giving him 60 points for the season and assuring him of the Art Ross Trophy as the NHL's leading scorer..

"That was pretty exciting for me. I didn't really expect it. I knew I had to get pucks in net. It's tough in the NHL getting shots so I just put it on net and it went in."

- Panthers forward Nick Bjugstad on scoring his first NHL goal.
1. A Lightning Start: The Panthers got an early chance less than 30 seconds into the game but it was the Lightning who took momentum shortly thereafter. They were first given a penalty shot as Benoit Pouliot was hooked on a breakaway. Jacob Markstrom however came up with the save on Pouliot's deke and shot 1:10 into the contest. Tampa wouldn't be denied five minutes in as Matt Carle's low slapshot from the point found a way through traffic and beat Markstrom for the 1-0 lead. With 6:46 left on the clock, they took a 2-0 lead as Ryan Malone pounced on Vincent Lecavalier's rebound shot and deposited it into the wide open net giving the home crowd a jumping start. 

2. A First And A Tie: Down early, the Panthers stemmed the Lightning attack and turned the momentum thanks to an NHL first by Nick Bjugstad. It took the center 11 games to record his first NHL goal after finishing his college career at Minnesota but the goal was a beauty with 3:06 left in the first. After stopping a Lightning rush, the Panthers countered ad Tyson Strachan set Bjugstad up the right side of the ice. The forward wristed a shot top shelf over Anders Lindback's glove hand to get the Cats on the board. Florida went into the intermission trailing by one but quickly tied the game up in the second. Rookie Jonathan Huberdeau picked up his 29th point of the season as he set up forward Tomas Fleischmann for his team-leading 34th point just 54 seconds into the second 20 minutes. Fleischmann went shortside from right face-off dot to knot the game at two.

3. Closing On A High Note: Tampa Bay didn't give Florida a lot of time to enjoy the tied game as Martin St Louis scored a little less than five minutes later as he batted in a rebound off Tedy Purcell's inital shot and the hosts held a 3-2 lead going into the third period. The final 20 minutes of the season it was all Florida however as they scored the final three goals of the game. First it was Eric Selleck creating the equalizer by using his speed to get a shot on Lindback on the rush. A crashing Scottie Upshall cashed in 5:30 into the third. Huberdeau and Fleischmann combined for the eventual game-winner with a little more than six minutes to play as the rookie set up Fleischmann for his 12th of the season. With Tampa pulling Lindback for the extra attacker, Huberdeau picked up his third assist as he got the puck to Marcel Goc who fired it into the open net from center ice with 49 seconds left. A season that started with a bang (a 5-1 victory over Carolina in the home opener) ended in grand fashion with the win over their cross-state rivals.
Memorable twitter posts from the game.

@McSpliff: Will admit it. the @FlaPanthers workd tonight. Glad to have been in Tampa to see a Panther win. @JonnyHuby11 should be a lock for the Calder

@brianfein: To the @FlaPanthers, thanks for a great season, & for never quitting! @JonnyHuby11 @drew_shore15 @j_markstrom @kopy82 @bcampbell_51 @Guddy44

@TheRobDiDonna: So proud of the @FlaPanthers on their last win tonight. Injuries plagued our season but next season we’ll have our revenge. #RedRising

@soccer416steph: Great @FlaPanthers game tonight!! September can't come fast enough!!

@kittyleffler: Its great to pull off a win tonight @FlaPanthers start off next season on a good note! Congrats @NBjugstad72 on your first nhl goal<3.

Memorable fan posts from the game.

Jeff Carter: It'll be a long drive home but I got to throw my rat! Rats reign!

Scott Allen: Rawr!! Always good to finish strong!

Anthony Cowen: Nice win!!!, disappointing but we had too many injuries this year. Lets get it next year!!!#wewantthecup#fearthecats

Dale Worsnop: Great game Panthers!! Looking forward to next season. Not looking forward to 6 months without hockey!!

Mandee Berger: What a way to end the season! Thanks guys!

1. The Panthers got on the board late in the first period thanks to an NHL first from Nick Bjugstad. He became the fourth Panther to record his first NHL goal this season, joining Jonathan Huberdeau (Jan. 19), Drew Shore (Feb. 12) and Greg Rallo (Apr. 2).

1. Also picking up an NHL first was forward Eric Selleck. After playing in his first NHL game 16 games ago, Selleck returned to the lineup after an upper body injury and set up the Panthers third goal of the game early in the third period. 

The defensive pair of Mike Weaver and Filip Kuba had an excellent game in the plus-minus ratio as they each were on the ice for each of the last four Panthers goals while not being on for any of the Lightning goals in finishing a game-high +4 each.

Picking up assists on three of the final four goals, rookie Jonathan Huberdeau registered the first three assist game of his career. It gave him 31 points (14-17-31) on the season, second most on the team and if not for a hat trick from 2012 No. 1 overall pick Nail Yakopov the rookie scoring lead. Instead the duo will share the scoring title. 

Putting the game away with an empty net goal for his ninth of the season, center Marcel Goc was dominating in the face-off circle, winning 13 of his 17 draws for a 76% winning percentage.

Tomas Fleischmann
Huberdeau did record three assists on the game but Fleischmann had a huge goal to tie it at two early in the second and then recorded his second game-winner of the season with six to play in the third.

2 Goals, 2 Points, 4 Shots, +1, 18:46 TOI
The shortened season has come to an end for Florida. The team will have their locker clean out day on Sunday before dispersing for the summer. Florida will find out where they pick in the upcoming draft on Monday. The Panthers have the best chance at picking first overall with a 25% opportunity and can pick no worse than second overall when the Entry Draft kicks off at the Prudential Center in New Jersey on June 30th.

Author: Glenn Odebralski |

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