Lundell, Luostarinen lead Panthers over Lightning 4-1
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Anton Lundell and Eetu Luostarinen scored 1:41 apart late in the first period, and the Florida Panthers ended the Tampa Bay Lightning’s home points streak at 16 games with a 4-1 victory on Tuesday night.
Eric Staal and Anthony Duclair also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 28 saves for the Panthers. It was his 354th NHL win, passing Evgeni Nabokov for the most by a Russia-born goaltender.
“It’s definitely big. It’s something you dream of,” the two-time Vezina Trophy winner said. “It takes lots of work by my teammates.”
Brayden Point scored a second-period power-play goal and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 37 saves for the Lightning, who had been 14-0-2 at Amalie Arena since their last regulation loss at home, 4-2 to the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 6.
Tampa Bay has been outscored 11-4 in losing back-to-back games to the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Panthers.
“We’re not where we want to be right now,” coach Jon Cooper said. “Hopefully we can rectify that with a practice and come out better the next game.
“We’re getting outplayed. Every game we’re getting outplayed. Whether it’s small pockets of the game or what have you … we’ve got to look ourselves in the mirror and say why is that. Our formula hasn’t changed, our game plan hasn’t changed. So it’s probably something inside us and we’ve got to figure that out.”
Florida won despite missing its top two centers, Aleksander Barkov and Sam Bennett, due to injury. Panthers coach Paul Maurice was delighted with the way his team stepped up in their absence.
“I thought in the first two (periods) we did an incredible job (protecting Bobrovsky),” he said. “They couldn’t get in to create. They’re so dynamic once they get inside your (blue) line. We did a pretty good job at holding the line tonight.”
The Panthers took a 1-0 lead 6:19 into the game when Staal deflected Josh Mahura’s point shot past Vasilevskiy. It was the 453rd goal of the 38-year-old center’s career and his 35th against the Lightning, the most he’s scored against any team.
“He just keeps getting better,” Maurice said of Staal, who didn’t play in the NHL last season and was signed by the Panthers after coming to training camp on a professional tryout. “He played in the Stanley Cup Final two years ago (with the Montreal Canadiens), and he’s getting back to that form.”
Florida continued to carry the play and made it 2-0 at 15:56 when Lundell picked up a misplayed puck along the right boards, cut into the slot and beat Vasilevskiy. Luostarinen was left alone in the slot, picked up a loose puck and scored at 17:37 for a 3-0 lead, and only a successful challenge for goaltender interference with three seconds remaining kept Florida from taking a four-goal lead. The Panthers outshot the Lightning 13-0 in the final 15:21 of the period.
“Two unassisted goals that we had the puck,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “For whatever reason, tonight we didn’t mean the plays and we didn’t execute. We just aren’t playing well. It’s on us as players to demand more from ourselves.”
The Lightning had an apparent goal by Nick Perbix at 6:00 of the second period negated when the Panthers successfully challenged that the play was offside. Tampa Bay got one that counted at 11:39 when Point converted a pass from Stamkos for his 37th goal of the season and 14th on the power play. But Stamkos’ apparent power-play goal at 3:02 of the third period was negated by a successful challenge for goalie interference.
Bobrovsky made 18 saves to help Florida survive three Lightning power plays in the third period before Duclair hit the empty net with five seconds remaining.
“Once again, Bob was really good,” Luostarinen said. “Good goalies always make those couple of important saves, and he came through today for us.”
Forward Tanner Jeannot, acquired by the Lightning from the Nashville Predators on Sunday, played 11:57 and was scoreless in his Tampa Bay debut.
The Panthers, who entered the night leading the NHL with an average of 36.6 shots on goal per game, finished with 41 – including 37 in the first two periods.
Nikita Kucherov’s assist on Point’s goal extended his points streak at home to 20 games. He has 35 points (five goals, 30 assists) during the streak.
Panthers: Begin a seven-game homestand by hosting Nashville on Thursday.
Lightning: Host Pittsburgh on Thursday.
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