Game 66 recap: Lightning hold on, snap skid, beat Florida 5-4

He's back! No, really, in recording his first two points (power play goal, assist) since returning from the disabled list, Steven Stamkos announced that he is back. - Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Images

The Lightning's five-game losing streak came to an end tonight, but not before they had to fend off a late rally by the Florida Panthers to pick up the 5-4 win.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 5-4 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday night.

The Lightning's latest winless skein is over, but it wasn't until they survived a late rally that almost erased yet another multi-goal lead before they could put this one in the books.'

"We have two more points than we did two and a half hours ago and that's all that matters.Does it make you a little uncomfortable to be able to shut it down? We made a couple big mistakes at the end but fortunately, when you have a three goal lead, you can get away with those. Time to learn for the guys. Like I said, it's two more points than we had." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

The Panthers scored first, cashing in on the power play and beating Lightning goalie Ben Bishop at 1:44 on a goal from Tomas Fleischmann on assists from Dmitry Kulikov and Nick Bjugstad.

At 5:38, the Lightning were on the board with Sami Salo tying the game with an assist by Valtteri Filppula.

Just 12 seconds later, the Panthers regained the lead thanks to a goal from Quinton Howden, with help coming from Jimmy Hayes and Brandon Pirri.

The Lightning tied the game again at 8:18 when Michael Kostka scored on an assist by Teddy Purcell.

The first period ended with the teams knotted at two.

At the 12:04 mark of the second, the Lightning took the lead on a goal from Ryan Callahan, his first as a member of the Lightning. He was assisted on the play by Ondrej Palat and Fillipula.

They extended that lead to two at 18:53 when Tyler Johnson was credited with a goal after his shot ricocheted off of Panthers defender Ed Jovanovski and past Florida goalie Dan Ellis. Steven Stamkos assisted, netting his first point since returning to the lineup.

Tampa Bay carried that 4-2 edge into the third.

At 10:47, the game seemed to be salted away when the home crowd was treated to the welcome return of a familiar sight: Stamkos scoring a powerplay goal off the one-timer from the left circle. Filppula and Victor Hedman chipped in with helpers.

"He just knew it was time for him to break out at some point and that was classic Stammer. You have got to love him as a captain. He didn't go and jump in the crowd or do any of that kind of stuff. He went right over to Fillipula right away and acknowledged the pass. That's why he's our captain." - Cooper

Somebody forgot to tell the Panthers the game was over because Scottie Upshall scored at 18:55 thanks to assists from Bjugstad and Brad Boyes.

Less than a minute later at 19:34, Fleischmann trimmed the margin to a single goal, getting assists from Kulikov and Bjugstad.

The Lightning managed to kill off the remaining 26 seconds, avoiding any kind of overtime drama and posting their first two point effort since March 1st at Dallas and picking up their first home win since before the Olympic break.

"For 59 minutes, we stuck to the game plan. We played well. We could have easily out our tail between our legs after the way they scored those two quick goals. But that's something we talked about to start the game, let's stay on it, and we did and I thought for the most part, we played a good game and deserved the win tonight." - Stamkos

With the win, the Lightning tie the Montreal Canadiens with 77 points and trail the Toronto Maple Leafs by a single point for second place in the division (pending the outcome of a game between Toronto and the Los Angeles Kings that will conclude later tonight).

The Lightning will be in action again on Saturday when they host the New Jersey Devils.X

Game notes:

  • Tonight was the final regular season meeting between Tampa Bay and Florida. The Lightning clinched the Governor's Cup in their last meeting, and finished the season series with a perfect record of 4-0-0 against their intrastate and division rival.
  • Coming into tonight's game, both the Lightning and Panthers had only picked up four points each since the Olympic break.
  • The Bolts gave up their first power play goal at home since January 23 against Ottawa, ending a streak of five games.
  • Howden's goal was his first in the NHL.
  • Another streak broken tonight was the Lightning's three-games straight scoring a shorthanded goal.
  • The Lightning honored my cousin Derrick Brooks as the 31st Lightning Community Hero of the year during the first period of tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. Brooks, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to Derrick Brooks Charities. Cousin Derrick has made it his personal mission to positively impact the lives of youth throughout the Tampa Bay area. He has inspired and motivated many youths through his various programs and partnerships. In addition to helping local children, Cousin Derrick has programs designed to help college aged individuals excel and succeed. In August 2007, he opened the Brooks-DeBartolo Collegiate High School charter school, which now enrolls over 300 students. Throughout his playing career and his life after the NFL, he has served approximately 3,000 youth in 10 schools, two Neighborhood Service Centers, the Wilbur Davis Boys and Girls Club and the Juvenile Diversion/Teen Court Program. In addition, he graduated over 65 students from college, has two students in medical school, multiple young adults in graduate school and over 100 students currently enrolled in undergraduate school.
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