Lightning fails to catch first-place Thrashers, lose 5-2 to Panthers

Jokinen has six goals and seven assists in his past five games. He shares second place with Pavel Bure on the franchise goal-scoring list with 152. A victory would have lifted Tampa Bay into a tie with Atlanta atop the Southeast Division. Instead, the Lightning weakened their position in a crowded Eastern Conference playoff chase.

Brad Richards put the Lightning ahead 4:54 into the second period. Jason Ward picked up a loose puck along the right boards and found Richards, who beat Belfour sliding toward the left post.

Florida drew even on a two-man advantage midway through the period, when Stephen Weiss redirected a rebound off the backboard past goalie Marc Denis. The Panthers came in 0-for-25 on the power play in their past eight games.

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The Panthers’ Nathan Horton made it 2-1, and Jokinen scored with 59 seconds left in the period to make it 3-1.

Lightning defenceman Filip Kuba cut the deficit to 3-2 with a short-handed goal midway through the third period, but Bryan Allen and Horton scored empty-net goals in the final 51 seconds.

Denis started both previous home games against the Panthers, allowing only three goals in a pair of victories. Johan Holmqvist replaced him after two periods.

Notes: Lightning D Paul Ranger, sidelined since March 7 with a knee sprain, returned to practice Monday. He could return to the lineup this weekend. IRL driver Danica Patrick, in the area for Sunday’s Honda Grand Prix of St. Petersburg, participated in pre-game ceremonies.