SUNRISE, Fla. – Winning doesn’t come easy for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tampa Bay almost wasted Nick Tarnasky’s first multi-goal game of his career with a late collapse, but held on to beat the Florida Panthers 5-3 on Saturday night.
“We had the game in total control but we continue to make things exciting,” Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella. “It’s unbelievable how we just continue to keep teams in games.”
Tarnasky scored twice for the first time 132 career games as the Lightning won for just the third time in 14 games and for the second time in seven on the road.
“It’s just exciting to be part of a win,” Tarnasky said. “I haven’t had a night like that since my second year in the American (Hockey) League.”
Brad Richards scored two goals and Jan Hlavac also scored for Tampa Bay, and goalie Johan Holmqvist made 27 saves.
Olli Jokinen, David Booth and Brett McLean scored for Florida, which has lost five straight at home and six of its past eight overall. Tomas Vokoun, who was selected on Friday to play in the NHL all-star game on Jan. 27 in Atlanta, stopped 24 shots.
Trailing 4-1, Florida scored twice late in the third.
The first goal came at 14:59 when Booth deflected a shot by Jassen Cullimore up and over Holmqvist’s shoulder and into the net. Later, McLean deflected a shot by Magnus Johansson past Holmqvist at 18:31.
Richards second goal, an empty-netter, came at 19:44.
“It was pretty wild there at the end but you just have to stay calm and hope guys can come up with the big plays,” Holmqvist said. “Fortunately, Brad (Richards) was able to clear it and it went in.”
Tampa Bay scored twice in just over a minute in the second period. Jason Ward’s shot from the right circle looked like it would miss the net as it went past Vokoun’s outstretched glove. Hlavac stopped the puck with his skate in front then redirected it into the net at 2:00 to give the Lightning a 2-1 lead.
Tarnasky’s second goal of the game at 3:07 put Tampa Bay ahead 3-1.
“Tonight the puck found my stick at the right time and I was able to get off good shots,” Tarnasky said. “It’s something I can build on now and hopefully get us going in the right direction.”
Richards power-play goal at 9:15 of the third stretched Tampa Bay’s lead to 4-1. Richards took a pass from Vaclav Prospal at the point, and his shot beat Vokoun, who was screened on the play, on the glove side.
“We started well but for some reason we got away from what brought us success two days ago (a win at Atlanta),” Vokoun said. “They got a big couple of goals and it was 3-1. My job is to be a difference and I wasn’t.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead just 38 seconds into the game, the quickest goal for the Panthers this season. Filip Kuba tried to clear the puck out of the zone but Bryan Allen cut it off and passed to Jokinen, whose wrist shot beat Holmqvist on the stick side.
Tampa Bay tied it 1-all at 10:39. Craig McDonald passed from behind the net to Tarnasky in front and Tarnasky poked the puck between Vokoun’s pads.
“In the second period some guys didn’t compete enough,” Florida coach Jacques Martin said. “(They) ended up costing us the game.”
Notes: Panthers C Jozef Stumpel will miss seven to 10 days with a separation of his right shoulder. He was injured in Thursday’s 3-2 victory at Atlanta. Forward Tanner Glass was recalled from Rochester to replace Stumpel. … Panthers defencemen Branislav Mezei (hand) and Cory Murphy (shoulder) skated on Friday and could be nearing a return to the lineup. … Jokinen has a 15-game point streak against the Lightning at home. … Tampa Bay’s Kuba played his 500th career game on Saturday.