NHL Game Summary - Tampa Bay at Florida
(Saturday, March 22nd)
Final Score: Florida 4, Tampa Bay 2
Sunrise, FL (Sports Network) - Nathan Horton scored twice, as the Florida Panthers topped the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-2, and kept pace in the Eastern Conference playoff race.
Jay Bouwmeester finished with a goal and an assist, and Olli Jokinen tallied for the Panthers, who won the front end of a home-and-home with Tampa Bay. The win improved Florida's point total to 81, tied with idle Buffalo.
The Panthers are three points behind Boston and Philadelphia for the eighth and final playoff spot. The Flyers were idle Saturday, but the Bruins lost in a shootout to Montreal -- both teams sit at 84 points.
"I think everybody knows if we lose, we're done," Horton said. "It's a matter of do or die and we've got to win every game."
Tomas Vokoun stopped 35-of-37 shots for the Panthers, who rebounded from a loss on Thursday that halted a seven-game win streak.
"He made a lot of good saves. I thought I beat him a few times, maybe if I went a little higher," Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier said. "He was always there. He was really quick. He read the play very well. The saves that he made really kept them in the game."
Mathieu Darche had a goal and assist for Tampa Bay, which has lost three in a row. Junior Lessard also scored, and Mike Smith allowed three goals on 25 shots in the loss.
Already holding a one-goal lead, Florida pulled away with a pair of third- period scores. Jokinen notched his 33rd marker of the year just past the midway point with the Panthers on the power play.
He simply ripped a shot from the left circle -- losing his balance on the follow-through -- and the puck got past Smith to put the Panthers ahead, 3-1. Then with 2:17 remaining, Horton earned an empty-net tally for Florida's fourth goal.
Vokoun was solid between the pipes for most of the period, but let one through with 1:11 on the clock. But Tampa Bay couldn't make up the two-goal deficit, as the Panthers sealed the win.
The Panthers cracked the scoreboard first with a power-play marker, thanks mostly to a defensive gaffe by the Lightning. Smith strayed far from the crease with the disc still in his team's defensive zone. Bouwmeester got the puck and sent a slapshot into a wide-open net at 3:31. Vokoun needed to make just three saves in the frame.
However, Tampa Bay unleased 17 shots in the second period, and managed to get one by Vokoun at 6:13. A pass from Darche from behind the net found Lessard at the inner edge of the right circle, and he one-timed the puck into the net at the far post.
Florida regained the lead just 1:15 later, as David Booth dropped a pass for Horton on a rush. Horton then ripped a shot high over Smith into the right side of the net, pushing the Panthers ahead 2-1.
Florida was 2-for-4 on power plays, while Tampa Bay went 0-for-5...The Lightning ended a three-game road trip winless, and return home on Tuesday to open up a four-game homestand...The Panthers wrapped up a seven-game homestand with a 6-1 mark.
03/22 22:59:12 ET