SUNRISE, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning somehow found a way to win while barely shooting the puck.
Steven Stamkos snapped a third-period tie with his NHL-leading 20th goal, and the Lightning held on to beat the Florida Panthers 3-2 on Tuesday night despite recording a season-low 13 shots.
Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis also scored for the Lightning, and Anders Lindback made 37 saves. St. Louis added two assists for the Lightning, whose previous low for shots this season was 19.
Stamkos scored the winning power-play goal from the right of the net 5:30 into the third to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead.
Tampa Bay won for just the second time in nine games, but beat the Panthers for the seventh straight time, including three this season.
“Some games you deserve to win and you don’t and some games you don’t and your goalie keeps you in it,” Stamkos said. “At this point of the season, the way some games have gone when we played well, you take it, you learn from it, you take the two points and get out of here.”
The Lightning had only six shots in the first two periods.
“We found a way to put the first two periods behind us and go out in the third and take control of a one-goal lead,” Stamkos said. “We didn’t sit back when we had the lead. We still pressured. It’s not pretty, but beggars can’t be choosers.”
Kris Versteeg and Tomas Kopecky had goals for the Panthers, and Jacob Markstrom stopped 10 shots in the loss. The reeling Panthers have lost seven of eight and 14 of 17, despite allowing a season-low in shots.
“Tonight is no different. Our fans go home unhappy, and our players are upset, as well,” Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “Snakebit … I don’t know what the word is, but obviously it’s not working in a positive way for us right now.”
Florida cut its deficit to 2-1 just 13 seconds into the second period. A loose puck behind the net found its way to Versteeg at the right of the net, and he poked it past Lindback on the glove side.
The Panthers tied it on Kopecky’s goal at 11:24 of the second. Jack Skille sent a pass from behind the net to Kopecky for a wrist shot that went under Lindback’s pads.
Lindback made a save on a breakaway by Shawn Matthias with 3:40 left in the third.
“I just kind of waited for him to make the first move,” Lindback said. “He opened up and tried to go low blocker, and I got a pad on it. It was nice to get the stop.”
Tampa Bay recorded only three shots in the first period, but made the most of them by scoring twice. Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Killorn combined on both goals.
The Lightning took a 1-0 lead on Lecavalier’s goal. St. Louis sent a pass to Lecavalier in front for a wrist shot that beat Markstrom at 1:36.
It was the fourth straight game Markstrom allowed a goal within the first 2:35.
“Sometimes when it rains, it pours,” Skille said. “But that’s the nature of the game sometimes. You’ve got to battle through it. We’ve got to grind it out.”
The Lightning pushed the lead to 2-0 when Killorn sent a pass from the left circle across to St. Louis at the right side of the net. His wrist shot got past Markstrom at 17:48.
Versteeg left the game midway in the third period after colliding with Lightning defenceman Radko Gudas along the boards. Versteeg, who appeared to injure his right leg, will be evaluated on Wednesday.
“I went for the puck and turned my back on him, and he tried to jump around me. I hit his groin or something,” Gudas said. “It’s something that happens in hockey. Obviously, I didn’t want him to get hurt.”
NOTES: St. Louis has a seven-game point streak. … Gudas made his NHL debut. … Stamkos has a goal in eight straight games against the Panthers. … Versteeg’s goal was his first since Jan. 31 against Winnipeg. He missed 17 games this season due to injury. … Markstrom and Lindback are both from Gavle, Sweden.