By Dory LeBlanc
The goals came in spurts throughout the night as the Lightning notched its fourth and final win over Florida this season and ended a five-game winless streak by defeating the Panthers 5-4 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday night.
With Tom Pyatt serving a two-minute penalty for hooking, Tom Fleischmann opened the scoring 1:44 into the contest with a quick wrister that got past struggling Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.
Lightning defenseman Sami Salo evened it up after getting the puck off the faceoff from Valtteri Filppula and blasts one from outside the circle at 5:38. But 12 seconds later, Quinton Howdens went five-hole with a wrister to regain the lead.
Mike Kostka knotted the game back up with a one-timer from the slot to make it 2-2 with nearly 12 minutes left to play in the first. Combined, Bishop and Panthers netminder Dan Ellis allowed four goals on 13 shots in the opening 8:18.
Bishop and Ellis settled in their respective nets, stopping 19 shots in over 24 minutes combined before Ryan Callahan picked up his first goal as a Bolt 12:04 into the middle frame to put the Lightning up by one. Callahan, who was acquired from the Rangers in exchange for Martin St. Louis, had recorded two assists in his first three games in Tampa Bay.
After almost seven scoreless minutes went, Tyler Johnson broke through off a feed by Steven Stamkos, who picked up his first point since returning to the ice from a broken tibia suffered on November 11.
Stamkos added his first goal since November 9th in Detroit off another fantastic pass from Filppula while having the man-advantage as Dylan Olsen was called for interfering with Pyatt. The assist on Stamkos' goal was Filppula's third of the game as he extended his career-high points total to 46.
With 1:03 remaining in regulation and Tampa Bay leading 5-2, Scottie Upshall and Brandon Pirri both scored 38 seconds apart as Peter Horachek opted to pull Ellis in favor of an extra skater, but the Lightning were able to hang on for the final 27 seconds to pick up their first win in six games.
To relieve some pressure on his right leg, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper moved Stamkos from his natural center position to right wing tonight and put him with Johnson; a move that clearly worked out well for Tampa Bay - at least on Thursday night.
With the two points, the Bolts move back into third place (fourth overall in the Eastern Conference) in the Atlantic Division, tied in points with Montreal with 77.
First Period -
1. FLA - PP: Fleischmann (Kulikov, Bjustad) 1:44
2. TB - Salo (Filppula) 5:38
3. FLA - Howden (Hayes, Pirri) 5:50
4. TB - Kostka (Purcell) 8:18
Second Period -
1. TB - Callahan (Palat, Filppula) 12:04
2. TB - Johnson (Stamkos) 18:53
Third Period -
1. TB - PP: Stamkos (Filppula, Hedman) 10:47
2. FLA - Upshall (Bjugstad, Boyes) 18:55
3. FLA - Pirri (Petrovic, Campbell) 19:33
Shootout Tally: N/A
Shots On Goal:
FLA - 27
TB - 28
FLA - (1) NONE; (2) Huberdeau - Slashing; (3) Olsen - Interference, Petrovic - Boarding
TB - (1) Pyatt - Hooking; (2) Gudas - Interference; (3) NONE
Next up for the Bolts: The Lightning will play their fifth contest of a six-game homestand Saturday when they host the Devils at 7:00pm. Tampa Bay has lost both meetings in New Jersey, but hope to get the win at the Forum to close out the season series. You can catch all of the action on sister station 970 WFLA with Hall of Famer Phil Esposito and Dave Mishkin giving the call with coverage beginning at 6:30pm.