Panthers rally to edge Lightning

TAMPA, Florida (Ticker) — One second can make all the
difference. Just ask the Tampa Bay Lightning.

All-Star defenseman Jay Bouwmeester completed a three-goal
outburst in the second period with one second remaining in the
session and the Florida Panthers hung on to post a 4-3 comeback
win over the Lightning on Saturday.

Cory Stillman and Richard Zednik also scored in the second as
the Panthers erased a 3-1 deficit and grabbed a one-goal
advantage. Tomas Vokoun turned aside all 13 shots he faced in
the third to preserve the victory.

“In the first (period), we were pretty bad. Everyone knew it,”
Bouwmeester said. “Games like this are huge for us. It’s a
team that’s below you in the standings, and we had a couple of
tough losses to them earlier.”

Gregory Campbell tallied in the opening session and Nathan
Horton collected three assists for Florida, which improved to
5-0-2 in its last seven games.

“This one definitely isn’t a keeper,” Panthers coach Peter
DeBoer said. “We’ll probably burn the tape of it rather than
watch it, but we got two points.”

All-Star Vincent Lecavalier and Vaclav Prospal each recorded a
goal and an assist and Ryan Malone netted his 100th career tally
for the Lightning, who had won three of four.

“We started the game great,” Prospal said. “We didn’t give them
anything in the first period. We built a 3-1 lead and let it
slip in the second, and that can’t happen to us, especially
against a cross-state rival. That was a four-point game.

“We should be good enough to protect that lead. We had such a
great first period. We made one bad mistake that ended up in
the back of our net, and we just gave them the second (goal).
They scored a huge goal in the last second of the second period
and we didn’t manage anything in the third.”

After falling behind by two goals late in the first period, a
session in which they were outshot by an 11-4 margin, the
Panthers played a spirited middle session to move ahead.

Horton beat a defender to a loose puck in the offensive zone and
dished it to Stillman, who beat goaltender Mike Smith from the
slot at 6:39 for a power-play goal. Less than 4 1/2 minutes
later, Zednik buried his own rebound from the doorstep to knot
the contest at 3-3.

With time winding down in the period, Stillman – a member of
Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup championship team in 2004 – completed a
pass from the right corner to Bouwmeester, who beat Smith to the
glove side from the left hash marks to put Florida ahead. It
was a man-advantage goal for Bouwmeester, who has scored in four
straight games.

“You just play to the buzzer,” Bouwmeester said. “You know
there wasn’t a whole lot of time left, but you’re not counting
down the seconds.”

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“You never want a goal at the end of a period, so that was a
tough one to swallow,” Tampa Bay defenseman Steve Eminger said.

Vokoun made the last-second tally stand as he stymied the
Lightning over the final 20 minutes. The Czech stopped all 22
shots he faced over two periods after replacing Craig Anderson,
who allowed three goals on 11 shots in the opening session.

“I don’t think it was really Andy’s fault,” Bouwmeester said.
“I think that sometimes you just (make a goalie change) to maybe
shake things up. We didn’t help him out much. I think we had
four shots in the first period, and that’s not going to win you
any games.”

“It’s not unusual to go to the bench, but it happened to us a
few times in the last little while, so we are a little bit more
used to it than probably most goalies,” Vokoun said. “We just
go in and, in a sense, you don’t have so much pressure. You’re
already down, so just come out and play and try to do the best
you can in those situations.”

Despite limiting Florida to just four shots in the third while
registering 13 of its own, Tampa Bay still could not recover
from Bouwmeester’s goal.

“It seemed like we couldn’t get a real clean chance in the
third,” Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet said. “Obviously,
in the last minute of the period, you don’t want to let a goal
in. It was a huge goal for them.”

Lecavalier opened the scoring at 4:37 of the first, deflecting
defenseman Matt Smaby’s shot from the left point past Anderson
for his 19th goal. The captain helped Tampa Bay double the
lead, recording the secondary assist on a power-play tally by
Prospal, who lifted his own rebound past Anderson from near the
right goalpost with 6:24 remaining in the session.

Campbell halved Florida’s deficit with 2:05 to go, wristing the
puck inside the left post from the slot. But Malone grabbed the
rebound of Martin St. Louis’ slap shot from the top of the right
faceoff circle and slid it into a vacant net just 51 seconds
later for his milestone goal and a 3-1 advantage.

“We didn’t play well in the first period,” DeBoer said. “Tampa
came out and was ready to play again. I thought we didn’t do
anything that we wanted to do as far as our game plan went. We
overhandled the puck, we didn’t forecheck well, we didn’t
generate shots, we took penalties. The list is as long as your
arm, the things we didn’t do the right way.

“To our guys’ credit, we fixed that in the second.”

Smith made 17 saves for the Lightning, who fell to 2-2-1 in the
season series with the Panthers.