SUNRISE, Fla. – Benoit Pouliot and Teddy Purcell helped the Tampa Bay Lightning finally get back on the winning track.
Pouliot scored two goals, including the game-winner in overtime, lifting the Lightning to a 6-5 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday.
The Lightning ended a six-game losing streak and got their first victory since Feb. 1st against Winnipeg, after opening the season at 6-1.
On the winning score, the puck bounced off the end boards and out to Pouliot, who was open in front. His wrist shot went into the net 1:19 into overtime.
“I was surprised it came back in front,” Pouliot said. “I just put my head down and went to the net. It made a weird bounce and came back out to me and I just put it in. Coming out of here with a big win like this; it’s going to be huge for us.”
Steven Stamkos also scored twice, and Purcell and Alexander Killorn each had a goal for the Lightning. Anders Lindback made 25 saves.
Purcell’s goal with 11 seconds left in regulation tied it 5-all as his shot from the slot hit off the post and into the net. Purcell was camped in front of the Panthers’ net as players scrambled for control of the puck while the final seconds of regulation ticked off, and was rewarded for his effort.
“I knew the puck was going to come out to the front,” Purcell said. “I was just trying to get a little space away from the defenders, and I was luckily uncovered and I was able to one-time it on net.”
Tomas Kopecky and Jonathan Huberdeau scored third-period goals to give the Panthers a lead they couldn’t hold. Jerred Smithson, Jack Skille, and Shawn Matthias also had goals for the Panthers and Jose Theodore stopped 30 shots. Mike Weaver had two assists and Matthias also had an assist.
Florida lost its fourth straight and third in a row in overtime.
“We’re not finishing,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “You’re not going to get in the playoffs with 48 points. You can’t try to get a point a game; it’s just not going to work. We’ve got to find a way a more complete effort and end up with two points.”
The Panthers got two goals early in the third to build a 5-3 lead.
The tiebreaking score came on the efforts of a couple of rookies as Drew Shore passed across the crease in front to Huberdeau, who redirected it into the net at 1:53 for his sixth goal of the season. Kopecky’s shot from the right side of the net put the Panthers ahead by two at 3:24.
Stamkos’ second goal came during a 4-on-3 power play and closed the score to 5-4. His slap shot from the left circle rifled past Theodore at 7:28. Stamkos has nine goals and three assists over a seven-game point streak against the Panthers.
“At that point of the game, you have to put teams away,” Smithson said. “You have to work to get that puck out, you have to do things the hard way. We obviously didn’t do it and let another point slip away.”
Trailing 3-2, Florida tied it in the waning seconds of the second period when Smithson poked in a rebound with 5 seconds left.
The Panthers tied it 2-all in the second on Skille’s goal at 2:27. The Lightning regained the lead quickly. Stamkos pounced on a rebound in front of the Panthers net and backhanded the puck past Theodore a little over a minute later to make it 3-2.
“We never quit. That’s never a question and never will be a question and we showed it again tonight,” Stamkos said. “We finally got a bounce our way on the overtime goal. Hopefully, this sparks some momentum and will help us moving forward.”
The Panthers, who were shut out in their last game, wasted no time changing that trend, taking a 1-0 lead 48 seconds in. Weaver took a shot from just inside the blue line on the right side. Matthias deflected the puck past Lindback.
The Lightning tied it at 1 on Pouliot’s first goal. Vincent Lecavalier passed the puck from behind the net out to Pouliot in front, who wristed in into the net at 4:48. The Lightning took a 2-1 lead on Killorn’s first career goal at 6:51 of the first.
“It felt really good. It was not a great shot or anything like that, but that’s usually how the first one goes in,” Killorn said. “I’m just happy that I was able to provide for the team.”
NOTES: Panthers W Kris Versteeg missed his second consecutive game with an upper body injury. … Lindback returned in net for Tampa Bay after missing Thursday’s game against Washington because of illness. … Lecavalier has recorded a point in four straight games.