SUNRISE — The Lightning took the ice in South Florida on Monday nearly a month since the last time it skated at the BB&T Center, giving the team both a chance to look back and to look forward.
Look back at how poorly it played in a loss during the second night of the season.
Look ahead at where it might head with the improvements it made on defense since that night.
The result was an 8-5 victory against the Panthers.
It wasn’t textbook pretty, but as Victor Hedman said, "Two points are two points."
Given the way the Lightning (10-2-1) has played in this building — five straight losses headed into the game — leaving with two points was more than enough to call it a success.
"After what they did to us a few weeks ago, as a coaching staff, we really wanted to see where we’re going to be at knowing we were going to play them again at the end of the month," coach Jon Cooper said after the game. "Florida’s going to look back and say they gave up eight goals, but they have a good team. They play fast. They’re heavy. For us, we need to see where we’re at. I’m happy with the way things turned out."
The Lightning won the battle of the special teams, scoring twice on five power-play opportunities while killing off all three of the Panthers’ power plays.
"We wanted to have a better game down here than we had last time we were in here (a 5-4 loss)," Hedman said. "We wanted to come in and have a solid game, and I thought we did. We gave up five goals, but we scored eight at the same time."
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed five goals on 23 shots but won his ninth straight game to tie John Grahame (2005) for the longest winning streak by a goalie in team history.
Steven Stamkos (two goals) and Nikita Kucherov (one), one-two in the league in scoring, returned to the scoring sheet.
The Lightning received goals from seven different players — Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde, Vladislav Namestnikov, Anton Stralman, Stamkos and Kucherov.
"We have a lot of depth up front," Stamkos said. "That’s been one of our strong suits the last couple of years. We’ll continue to get scoring up and down the lineup. It’s huge in today’s game. It was a big part of the lineup today."
Cooper returned to his 12 forward/six defensemen lineup that he has only used this season against the Panthers (4-6-1). Defensemen Slater Koekkoek and Andrej Sustr were scratched.
"I’m not stuck to anything," Cooper said. "We coach to win games. We put lineups in to win games. What 20 guys are going tonight and how we’re going to play them. We felt the different areas where we could use some help, either it’s faceoffs and balancing our lines and things like that. Fortunately it worked out."
It worked well enough to allow the Lightning to avoid its first losing streak of the season and bounce back from Saturday’s 4-1 loss to the Ducks.
It wasn’t easy. The Lightning led 2-0 and 3-1 in the first before the Panthers made it a one-goal game at the first intermission. Then Jonathan Huberdeau tied it at 3-3 at 5:32 of the second.
But the Lightning scored three times before the end of the period. Still, the Panthers kept chipping away before Stralman’s empty netter at 19:41 sealed the victory.
"It was one of those games," Stamkos said. "A lot of goals scored, obviously, but it’s nice to be on the winning side of those. I don’t think it really was an 8-5 game. I thought we played pretty well, so it was a good bounce-back game for us after a loss at home (Saturday) night."
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Point 6 (Coburn, Girardi), 2:48. 2, Tampa Bay, Kucherov 13 (Stamkos), 4:55. 3, Florida, Ekblad 3 (Barkov, Huberdeau), 10:31. 4, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 4 (Hedman, Killorn), 14:40 (pp). 5, Florida, Barkov 4 (Dadonov), 19:07.
Second Period—6, Florida, Huberdeau 5 (Barkov, Dadonov), 5:32. 7, Tampa Bay, Palat 4 (Point, Gourde), 7:17. 8, Tampa Bay, Gourde 1 (Palat, Sergachev), 9:38 (pp). 9, Tampa Bay, Namestnikov 4 (Hedman, Kucherov), 15:41.
Third Period—10, Florida, McGinn 3 (Vrbata, Bjugstad), 5:32. 11, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 5 (Namestnikov, Dotchin), 9:02. 12, Florida, Dadonov 6 (Huberdeau, Barkov), 11:29. 13, Tampa Bay, Stralman 2, 19:41.
Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 13-18-7—38. Florida 9-6-8—23.
Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 2 of 5; Florida 0 of 3.
Goalies—Tampa Bay, Vasilevskiy 10-1-0 (23 shots-18 saves). Florida, Niemi 0-3-0 (18-16), Reimer 3-4-1 (19-14).
Referees—Jon Mclsaac, Chris Rooney. Linesmen—Ryan Galloway, Steve Miller.