Martin St. Louis scored the tying goal midway through the third and then tallied in the shootout, helping the Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night. Tampa Bay is 11-3 in games that have been decided after regulation and 7-15-0 when trailing after two periods
“We found a way to get a couple points, but I think we’re mature enough of a hockey team to know that we’re not playing our best hockey,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “That’s when good teams get better, still getting points in those situations.”
Ryan Craig also scored for the Southeast Division-leading Lightning, who have won 15 of 19. Tampa Bay took the shootout 2-1.
The Lightning will face the second-place Thrashers in Atlanta on Thursday. Both have 71 points but Tampa Bay is ahead of the Thrashers because the Lightning have a game in hand.
Nathan Horton scored twice for the Panthers, who are 1-12 in games decided in overtime or a shootout.
“I thought we got a really big game out of Nathan Horton,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said. “We did a good job. I thought we had a strong effort. We took too many penalties.”
Florida was short-handed eight times, allowing one goal. The Panthers were 0-for-2 on the power play.
St. Louis got Tampa Bay even at 2 with his 36th goal of the season, scored during a power play with 12:17 left in the third.
Horton scored on his second breakaway of the game to put the Panthers ahead 2-1 at 10:53 of the second.
He missed a great scoring chance in the opening minute when he couldn’t handle a pass while alone just outside the crease.
After Craig scored off a backhand pass from behind the net by Andreas Karlsson at 2:15, Horton tied it at 1 on a wrist shot at 5:30 of the first.
Tampa Bay’s Marc Denis made 28 saves. Florida’s Ed Belfour stopped 35 shots.
“I thought both goalies were outstanding,” Tortorella said.
Denis had a diving glove save on Olli Jokinen’s right-circle shot during a power play in the second. He also stopped Horton on a breakaway during the first.
“We’re trying to win a battle to get points,” Denis said. “If we want to stay on top of that division you’ve got to win on a consistent basis.”
Belfour turned aside Vincent Lecavalier’s in-close rebound shot in the second. Lecavalier extended his point streak to five games (six assists, 11 points) with an assist on St. Louis’ goal.
Lecavalier, who has 39 goals this season, had 10 shots on goal, including three good chances in overtime when the Lightning outshot Florida 7-2.
“The first two periods were really sloppy,” Lightning defenceman Dan Boyle said. “I thought we played really well the second half of that third period and I think that allowed us to get some momentum going into the overtime.”
Notes: Montreal, which might try to add a goalie before the trade deadline, had a scout at the game. … Florida C Jozef Stumpel (shoulder) returned after missing five games. … Lightning RW Ruslan Fedotenko was in the lineup after missing practice Monday with a thigh injury. … Craig Anderson, recalled from Rochester of the AHL on Monday, served as Belfour’s backup. Alex Auld was unavailable due to soreness in his left knee.