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Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis key to Lightning win over Panthers

TAMPA, Fla. - Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis helped Tampa Bay win the 2004 Stanley Cup. Now they are trying to help the Lightning climb back into playoff contention this season.

Lecavalier scored twice and had an assist, and St. Louis had a goal and three assists to lead the Lightning to their third straight victory, 6-4 over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.

"It's just good we got the victory," Lecavalier said. "It's three in a row and good for our confidence. Hopefully it carries on."

Tampa Bay (10-16-9) also got goals from Steven Stamkos, Evgeny Artyukhin and Ryan Malone, who added had three assists. The Lightning won the first game of the home-and-home series at Florida, 4-3 in a shootout, on Friday night.

"We've been going good lately," St. Louis said. "The last three games, I really feel guys are on the same page. The most we've been on the same page all year. You can see it in the results."

David Booth had two goals and an assist, Nathan Horton picked up his first goal in 11 games, and Stephen Weiss added a goal for the Panthers, who have dropped four of six.

"Just overall, it was a pretty weak effort," Florida defenceman Jay Bouwmeester said.

After Tampa Bay blew a two-goal advantage, Lecavalier gave the Lightning a 4-3 lead from the low slot with 5.4 seconds left in the second. St. Louis set up Malone's power-play goal early in the third and then extended the Lightning lead to 6-3 on a rebound goal with 12:14 to play.

Stamkos, taken first overall in this year's amateur draft, put the Lightning up 1-0 on his fourth goal at 7:06 of the first. It stopped a personal 11-game goal drought.

Artyukhin made it 2-0 with 5:57 left in the first on Tampa Bay's second of three 5-on-3 power plays of the period.

Mark Recchi assisted on Artyukhin's goal, which tied him for 20th place with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito on the NHL assist list with 873. Esposito was at the game, working as a Lightning radio broadcaster.

Tampa Bay outshot Florida 21-3 in the first.

"Right now, we're a desperate team," said Malone, who is on a line with St. Louis and Lecavalier.

Booth pulled the Panthers to 2-1 at 3:09 of the second. The Lightning re-established a two-goal lead on Lecavalier's first goal of the game at 4:52.

Horton scored during a two-man advantage with 3:33 left in the second, and Booth added his second of the game during a power play 26 seconds later that tied it at 3.

Weiss cut it to 6-4 at 13:57 of the third.

"It's very disappointing because we were playing well before the (Christmas) break," Panthers defenceman Bryan McCabe said. "We'll regroup, and get back on the horse."

Notes: Tampa Bay's six goals was a season high. ... Florida RW Richard Zednik played in his 700th NHL game. ... Tampa Bay recalled D Matt Smaby from Norfolk of the AHL. He assisted on Stamkos' goal for his first NHL point. ... Smaby replaced D Lukas Krajicek, who sat out with an upper-body injury.



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