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Ryan Malone scores in shootout to help Lightning beat Panthers 4-3

SUNRISE, Fla. - The way their season has gone, the Tampa Bay Lightning can live with a late defensive lapse in a shootout victory.

After Tampa Bay gave up the tying goal with 13.9 seconds left in regulation, Ryan Malone beat Craig Anderson with a wrist shot to give the Lightning a 4-3 shootout victory over Florida on Friday night in the first game of a home-and-home series.

"You don't want to be in that situation in the first place," Malone said. "You've got to give them credit for keeping fighting back, but it's our job to have that desperation to get that other goal."

Adam Hall and Jussi Jokinen also scored in the shootout for Tampa Bay, and Cory Stillman and Nathan Horton countered for Florida.

Steve Eminger, Mark Recchi and Evgeny Artyukhin scored in regulation for the Lightning. Tampa Bay, coming off a 2-0 victory over Pittsburgh, has won consecutive games for the first time since a three-game streak from Oct. 28-Nov. 1.

"That's huge! That's huge!" Eminger said. "If it s going to be a shootout, then it's going to be a shootout. Don't be kind of content with this, just keep on going and pushing it."

Tampa Bay improved to 2-6 in shootouts this season, while Florida dropped 2-3.

Bryan McCabe scored the tying goal for Florida. Keith Ballard and Stillman added goals for the Panthers, who have lost only three times in regulation in their last 16 games (9-3-4).

"It's big just to get a point," McCabe said. "We certainly were not at out best tonight, but we found a way to salvage a point. At least we battled really hard on a night we probably weren't that great, but that's what you have to do get points."

Florida had a chance to win with a 2-1 lead in the shootout, but Jokinen beat Anderson on Tampa Bay's third attempt to force a sudden-death round. Lightning goalie Mike Smith stopped Stephen Weiss before Malone scored.

"(The shootout is) a crapshoot," said Anderson, who has given up six goals in eight shootout attempts this season. "You put individuals out there and anything can happen. Our guys did a great job of scoring goals in the shootout. I just couldn't finish it for them."

Smith stopped 25 shots for Tampa Bay.

Tomas Vokoun, coming off back-to-back shutouts, started in net for Florida, but gave way to Anderson after the second period after allowing three goals on 27 shots.

Eminger opened the scoring 11:24 into the game when Vokoun misplayed his long slap shot. Eminger fired a shot as he skated to the blue line and it went off Vokoun's stick into the top of the net.

The goal ended Vokoun's shutout streak at 131 minutes.

Recchi broke a 1-1 tie at 16:53 of the second period when he tipped Eminger's one-timer in front of the net.

Artyukhin made it 3-1 at 18:27 when his backhand went between Vokoun's legs. It was part of a busy night for Artyukhin, who also was involved in two fights.

Stillman scored a power-play goal at 13:37 of the third to make it 3-2. He grabbed a loose puck at the side of the crease and put it into the open net.

"Letting a two-goal lead at the end disappear kind of leaves a sour taste in your mouth," Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said. "But we grinded it out and got the win.

Notes: Eminger tied a season high with his three-point game. ... Florida D Jassen Cullimore missed his second consecutive game because of a hand injury. ... Ballard's goal was his 100th career point. ... Vokoun failed in his first try for his 200th career victory.



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