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NHL Preview from The Sports Network



Saturday, January 16th (All times eastern)

Tampa Bay Lightning (18-18-10) at Florida Panthers (19-20-8), 7 p.m.

(Sports Network) - The Florida Panthers will be shooting for both a rare recent winning streak and a home-and-home sweep of the Tampa Bay Lightning when these two Sunshine State rivals get together again this evening at the BankAtlantic Center.

Florida scored a pair of third-period goals to rally for a 3-2 victory over the Lightning Thursday in Tampa, with Rostislav Olesz netting the go-ahead tally with 7:39 left to play.

The Panthers' Cory Stillman tied the contest at 2-2 nearly nine minutes into the final session when he knocked home a feed from Steven Reinprecht. A few minutes later, Olesz picked up Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman's turnover at center ice and beat goaltender Antero Niittymaki with a wrist shot to put Florida ahead.

Panthers netminder Tomas Vokoun made the lead stand by stopping 28-of-30 chances, including a penalty-shot attempt from Martin St. Louis with 4:55 remaining.

Florida bounced back from a tough 5-4 shootout loss to Southeast Division leader Washington on Wednesday, in which the Capitals scored two unanswered goals in the third period to force overtime. The Panthers have not won back- to-back outings since a three-game surge from December 14-18.

"It was huge," said Vokoun of the win. "Especially [after] losing a game we should have won [Wednesday]."

Jeff Halpern and Steve Downie had the goals for Tampa Bay, which had a brief two-game winning streak halted, while Niittymaki ended with 26 saves.

"Their team kind of sat back and waited for us to make mistakes and sure enough, they got a couple," said Lightning defenseman Kurtis Foster.

Niittymaki will likely be back between the pipes again tonight, with cohort Mike Smith still bothered by a neck strain that forced him to exit a 7-4 win over the Capitals on Tuesday.

Tonight's matchup begins a three-game road trip for Tampa Bay, which will also visit Carolina and the New York Rangers on the swing. The Lightning have struggled as the guest this year, bringing only a 7-12-5 away mark for the season into this showdown.

Tampa Bay has prevailed in each of its last two visits to the BankAtlantic Center, although Florida has won 11 of the past 15 encounters between these foes as the home team.

The Panthers are just 7-8-6 overall as the host this season, however.

01/16 10:43:45 ET

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