SUNRISE, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning had a man advantage for a total of 15 seconds during regulation Friday night.
It was a different story in overtime, and it made all the difference.
Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal 2:29 into the extra period to lift the Lightning past the Florida Panthers 2-1.
Florida’s Dmitry Kulikov was given an interference penalty 48 seconds into the overtime. Tampa Bay missed several good chances with the 4-on-3 advantage before Stamkos fired a slapshot from the top of the left circle past Florida goaltender Jose Theodore for the winner.
“It’s a great feeling. You know the game is over and you get the two points,” Stamkos said. “To score in overtime, there’s no better feeling.”
Stamkos’ 12th goal meant the Panthers had to settle for seven of eight points on their four-game homestand.
“They had a full two minutes, and that’s hard to kill,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. “They had a lot of talented players on the ice.”
Florida’s Tomas Fleischmann and Tampa Bay’s Vincent Lecavalier scored in regulation.
Mathieu Garon stopped 23 shots for Tampa Bay, which snapped a two-game losing streak.
“We played a solid game. We played exactly the way we wanted,” Garon said.
Theodore made 29 saves for the Panthers, who were seeking a fourth straight win for the first time since a seven-game streak March 2-16, 2008. They hadn’t won four straight in regulation since Feb. 10-19, 2001.
“I’m a little ticked off. We had a one-goal lead going into the third period. We have to learn how to win these games,” Florida’s Kris Versteeg said.
Lecavalier tied it at one with his 10th goal at 8:59 of the third. It came seconds after Versteeg hit the crossbar at the other end of the ice.
Lecavalier took a wrist shot as he skated in on Theodore, who stopped the initial shot. The goalkeeper, however, failed to smother the puck and Lecavalier poked at the puck several times before putting it into the net.
After being outplayed and outshot 7-4 in the first period, Florida was more assertive in a more wide-open second period.
Fleischmann opened the scoring at 12:38 of the second period.
Stephen Weiss outhustled Tampa Bay’s Brett Clark for the puck just inside the Florida zone. Weiss then rushed down the left side and into the Tampa Bay zone on a 2-on-1 with Fleischmann. Weiss fed a pass to Fleischman, who one-timed the puck past Garon for his 10th goal.
“We have to find a way to win the game in the third period—we didn’t,” Fleischmann said.
Fleischmann had two assists against the New York Rangers on Wednesday night, when he also was levelled by an elbow from Andre Deveaux. The NHL announced on Friday that Deveaux has been suspended three games as a result of his elbow to the head.
Florida entered the game with its best 21-game start (12-6-3) since going 13-3-5 to start the 1996-97 season. The last time the Panthers were in first place this late in the season was through 68 games on March 10, 2000.
NOTES: The Panthers had one shot during the first 13:38. … The teams will conclude the home-and-home series in Tampa on Saturday night. … The Fleischmann-Weiss-Versteeg line has scored 30 of Florida’s 62 goals this season. … The only penalties through two periods were two minors (D Eric Brewer, delay of game; D Clark, high sticking) called on Tampa Bay.