TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning have surpassed the 100-point mark for the first time since winning the Stanley Cup in 2004.
Vincent Lecavalier had two goals, including one on a penalty shot, and the Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 4-2 on Friday night.
“It’s all about trying to get momentum for the playoffs,” Lecavalier said. “The playoffs are, obviously, the most important thing. We’re happy, but we’re not satisfied.”
The victory gave Tampa Bay 101 points for the season. The only time the Lightning recorded more was 106 points in 2003-04—before the NHL changed its points system.
“It’s an achievement,” first-year Lightning coach Guy Boucher said. “You’ve been battling with the big boys. We’ve done pretty good. I want to do great.”
Lecavalier put the Lightning up 3-1 when he deked goalie Scott Clemmensen to ice and lifted home a wrist shot on his penalty shot at 1:27 of the second. The Tampa Bay captain also had a first-period power-play goal.
Ryan Malone and Pavel Kubina also scored for the Lightning, who will be making their first post-season appearance since 2007. Tampa Bay will be the fifth seed in the Eastern Conference, and will play either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia in the opening playoff round.
Florida got goals from Jason Garrison and Mike Santorelli. The Panthers, last in the Eastern Conference, have lost 10 in a row (0-7-3).
“I was proud of our effort,” Florida coach Peter DeBoer said. “I thought we came out ready to play and we played right to the buzzer.”
The Lightning end the regular season Saturday night at Carolina, which is competing for the final Eastern Conference playoff berth. Boucher said Malone, who recently returned from a mid-body injury that cost him 21 games won’t play, and didn’t rule out resting others like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos.
“We’re going to think about our team,” Boucher said.
Tampa Bay went ahead 2-1 when Malone scored at 16:08 of the first. Clemmensen stopped Malone’s backhander—which the left wing took while down on the ice—but the rebound went off Florida centre Shawn Matthias and into the net.
Lecavalier gave the Lightning a 1-0 advantage with a power-play goal from the low slot 4:08 into the first. St. Louis assisted on the goal, giving him a career-high 66 assists.
St. Louis has 37 assists and 41 points on the power play this season. The right wing has seven assists and 11 points during an eight-game points streak.
Kubina extended the lead to 4-1 on a power-play goal with 4:54 to go in the second. Kubina stopped a personal 27-game goal drought.
Garrison tied it at 1 with 8:01 left in the first. The defenceman has two goals—both coming against Tampa Bay—in his last 26 games.
Santorelli got his 20th goal of the season early in the third.
“I think our mindset was just to come in and work hard,” Santorelli said. “There is a lot to improve on, and our goal is to get better and better.”
Stamkos, who has 44 goals this season, has just one—an empty-netter—in his last 12 games. He assisted on Lecavalier’s first goal of the game.
NOTES: Lecavalier is 1 for 3 on penalty shots this season. … Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman, who left Tuesday’s game against Buffalo with a lower-body injury, was out of the lineup. … Florida played without C Stephen Weiss (groin), C Ryan Carter (mild concussion), C Scott Timmins (mild concussion), LW Darcy Hordichuk (oblique) and RW Steve Bernier (shoulder). … Lighnting D Eric Brewer returned after missing two games due to a lower-body injury. … Kubina played in 900th NHL game.