TAMPA — Given the Lightning, in seven games since the Olympic break, had squandered eight leads while going 1-4-2, the ending to Thursday night's matchup with the Panthers was, as coach Jon Cooper said, "a little uncomfortable."
In the end, though, all that mattered to the Lightning was a 5-4 victory at the Tampa Bay Times Forum, not the two goals Tampa Bay allowed in 39 seconds that cut its lead to one with 26.5 seconds left in the third period.
"You don't read too much into that," right wing Ryan Callahan said. "You don't want to give them up. But when you're struggling to get some wins, those things happen. But we get the two points, and for the most part we played good hockey."
The two points were huge for the Lightning (35-24-7), which entered the game just four points from falling out of a playoff spot and losers of five straight.
Steven Stamkos' first goal in four games since returning from a broken right tibia, a one-timer from the left faceoff circle on the power play, was the winner as it provide a 5-2 third-period edge.
Callahan got his first goal in four games since coming from the Rangers in the Marty St. Louis deal, a redirect that resulted from the right wing charging hard to the net.
Sami Salo, Mike Kostka and Tyler Johnson also scored. Valtteri Filppula earned his "Filthy Mitts" nickname with three assists. And Ben Bishop, though not at his best, got his 30th win with 23 saves.
The team also was good on faceoffs, winning 59 percent, and generally managed the puck well and got it deep into the offensive zone.
"I thought we deserved the win," Stamkos said.
That said, 13 giveaways were too many, and Florida's two late third-period goals just should not happen the way they happened.
Scottie Upshall's goal with 1:05 left began with a two-on-one when Florida's Nick Bjugstad got past Lightning defenseman Matt Carle at the Panthers' blue line.
And when Brandon Pirri scored with 26.5 seconds left to make it 5-4, he did so from the slot in a comfortable seam between five Tampa Bay skaters.
"The last minute, maybe we got ahead of ourselves a little bit," said Stamkos, whose 15th goal was his first since Nov. 9 and who also had an assist.
"We're excited we're finally going to probably seal the win there, and a little sloppy play."
"We made a couple big mistakes at the end," Cooper said, "but fortunately (when) you have a three-goal lead, you can get away with those things."
Bottom line, Cooper said, "we have two more points than we had. That's all that matters."
First Period—1, Florida, Fleischmann 7 (Kulikov, Bjugstad), 1:44 (pp). 2, Tampa Bay, Salo 3 (Filppula), 5:38. 3, Florida, Howden 1 (Hayes, Pirri), 5:50. 4, Tampa Bay, Kostka 3 (Purcell), 8:18. Penalties—Pyatt, TB (hooking), 1:14.
Second Period—5, Tampa Bay, Callahan 12 (Palat, Filppula), 12:04. 6, Tampa Bay, Johnson 21 (Stamkos), 18:53. Penalties—Gudas, TB (interference), :43; Huberdeau, Fla (slashing), 5:07; Howden, Fla (tripping), 12:41.
Third Period—7, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 15 (Filppula, Hedman), 10:47 (pp). 8, Florida, Upshall 12 (Bjugstad, Boyes), 18:55. 9, Florida, Pirri 8 (Petrovic, Campbell), 19:33. Penalties—Olsen, Fla (interference), 9:52; Petrovic, Fla (boarding), 16:26. Shots on Goal—Florida 11-5-11—27. Tampa Bay 7-13-8—28. Power-play opportunities—Florida 1 of 2; Tampa Bay 1 of 4. Goalies—Florida, Ellis 5-7-0 (28 shots-23 saves). Tampa Bay, Bishop 30-11-6 (27-23). A—18,324 (19,204). T—2:18. Referees—Tim Peel, Tom Kowal. Linesmen—Greg Devorski, Brad Kovachik.