By Rick Menning
PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer
SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) — Defenseman Steve Eminger recorded a
goal and two assists and Ryan Malone netted the shootout winner
to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 win over the Florida
Panthers on Friday.
Veteran Mark Recchi and Evgeny Artyukhin also scored in
regulation for the Lightning, who have won back-to-back games
for the first time since November 1.
Jussi Jokinen and Adam Hall were also successful in the shootout
for Tampa Bay.
“It feels good. Any win’s a win,” Malone said. “Guys are doing
a good job of working as a unit of five on the ice, feeding off
each other and helping each other out. Things are coming
Defenseman Bryan McCabe scored for the Panthers with 14 seconds
remaining in the third period to force overtime.
“(Stephen Weiss) made a great play and (the puck) just happened
to bounce out at my wheelhouse and I got it on net,” McCabe
said. “We had some opportunities. We stuck with it and got a
big point. We’ll take it.”
The Lightning struck for a pair of goals late in the second
period to break open a 1-1 deadlock.
“I thought we had a real disappointing second period from an
effort point of view. I wasn’t real happy,” Florida coach Peter
DeBoer said. “I didn’t think our forwards put enough pressure
on (Tampa Bay). I thought we sat back too much in the second
period for my liking.”
But despite the negatives of that period, DeBoer found a big
positive in the never-say-die attitude at the end.
“We’re going to look at the bright side – we found a way to get
a point,” DeBoer said. “We know we have to do better. We dug
deep inside and got a point. This is no easy league and there
are no easy teams.”
Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet had a different perspective
on the outcome.
“Letting a two-goal lead (go) at the end kind of leaves a sour
taste in your mouth, but (we) grinded it out and got the win,”
Tocchet said. “When you have a wounded snake, you have to kill
it. We didn’t. We let it bite us and you can’t let that
Recchi tipped in a shot from Eminger for his eighth goal of the
season and Artyukhin followed 90 seconds later with a
backhander that slid past Tomas Vokoun for a 3-1 advantage.
Weiss said the Panthers broke down in a number of areas in the
“They trapped all night and we turned the puck over too much,”
Weiss said. “They had a lot more time of possession in our zone
than we would have liked, but we turned that around in the
third. We have to make sure we go out there and play hard for
Vokoun’s streak of stopping 55 consecutive shots over two-plus
games ended when Tampa Bay capitalized on a rare misplay by the
Finn midway through the first period.
The Florida netminder attempted to kick aside Eminger’s blast
from the blue line, but wound up deflecting the puck off his
stick and into the net at 11:24 of the first period.
“That’s huge, that’s just huge,” Eminger said. “We’ve got to
find some way to build on (this effort).”
The Panthers tied it with just under two minutes left in the
period. With goaltender Mike Smith out of position on a
clearing attempt, the puck found its way to the top of the right
circle where defenseman Keith Ballard drilled home a one-timer.
Cory Stillman cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:23 left in the third
period when he tipped in a pass from blue-liner Jay Bouwmeester
while parked in from of the crease to Smith’s glove side.
“Both our teams play hard. They’re battling for their lives and
we’re battling for a playoff spot,” said Florida goaltender
Craig Anderson, who replaced Vokoun in the third period. “(The
shootout) is a crap shoot. You put individuals out there and
anything can happen.”
Artyukhin was involved in two fights, one with Nick Tarsasky
late in the first period and another with defenseman Nick
Boynton at the end of the second.