Panthers close in on Central-leading Lightning with 6-4 win
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jonathan Huberdeau scored and led a balanced attack that included goals from six players, and the Florida Panthers gained on Central Division-leading Tampa Bay with a 6-4 victory over the Lightning on Monday night.
Florida won two of the three games between the teams in a five-day span and pulled within a point of the Lightning in the standings.
Aleksander Barkov, Anton Stralman, Owen Tipppett, Anthony Duclair and Frank Vatrano also scored for Florida, which recorded its first win in Tampa Bay since March 26. 2016, a span of eight games.
“Going into the season and the amount of games you’re playing against each other. It’s going to be a tight race throughout,” Stralman said. “It’s a good response for our team and taking four points out of six. It’s big for our team.’’
Chris Driedger finished with 27 saves and Florida improved to 4-0 in games following a loss this season.
Alex Volkov scored twice for Tampa Bay, which had its six-game home winning streak halted. Steven Stamkos and Tyler Johnson also scored for the Lightning. Curtis McElhinney made 15 saves in his second start of the season.
Stamkos, back in the lineup after missing the two previous games, scored his team-leading eight of the season to put Tampa Bay in front at 6:24 of the first period. Ondrej Palat won the puck below the goal line and found Erik Cernak in the slot. Cernak fed a pass to Stamkos, who dropped to a knee for a one-timer.
The lead didn’t last long as Huberdeau pulled the Panthers even 1:32 later. McElhinney left the crease to play the puck as it moved around the boards, but it slowed down coming around the bench and McElhinney was beaten to the puck by Patric Hornqvist, who fed Huberdeau alone in front of the vacated net for his fifth of the season.
The Panthers started to pull away in the second period with three goals in 5:24.
Tippett finished off a cross-ice pass from Eetu Luostarinen after a turnover by Jan Rutta at 4:59. Vatrano converted a penalty shot at 8:39 to give him goals in three consecutive games before Duclair finished a wrap around at 10:23 for a 4-1 lead.
“They didn’t do anything, really, to us,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “It was all self-inflicted. Like the first one, self-inflicted. The second one, self-inflicted. We had full control of the puck and we just hand it over to them. The third and fourth one, we turned it over at the blue line, self-inflicted. Terrible.’’
Volkov cut the deficit to two goals with a wrist shot from the left dot at 11:42, but Barkov answered that 54 seconds later with his fifth of the season and 420th career point, passing Olli Jokinen for second place on the Panthers’ all-time scoring list.
The Lightning pulled within one again on goals by Volkov and Johnson in a 48-second span. Volkov netted his second of the game after Pat Maroon’s backhander glanced off Volkov’s stick at 15:50, and Johnson finished off a Joseph pass on a 2-on-1 with 3:22 left in the second period.
Stralman scored his first of the season 59 seconds into the third period to regain a two-goal lead for Florida.
“They had all the momentum,” Florida head coach Joel Quenneville said. “We stabilized it a little with that (penalty) kill in the third. Huge goal (from Stralman), down Main Street with a great shot. We got our composure back.’’
CENTER OUT: Florida will be without C Noel Acciari for the full road trip after head coach Joel Quenneville announced Acciari suffered an undisclosed upper-body injury. Acciari, who scored 20 goals in 66 games last season, has yet to register a point through 12 games this season.
ROSTER SHUFFLING: With Lightning C Anthony Cirelli out week to week, Tampa Bay recalled forwards Alex Barre-Boulet and Ross Colton from Syracuse of the American Hockey League and assigned them to the taxi squad. In addition, G Spencer Martin was transferred from the taxi squad to Syracuse, while D Cal Foote was transferred from the active roster to the taxi squad.
Florida: At Carolina Hurricanes on Wednesday.
Tampa Bay: At Dallas Stars on Thursday.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports