SUNRISE — There were 3 minutes, 40 seconds left in Tuesday night's game when goaltender Anders Lindback faced his moment of truth.
Tampa Bay was clinging to a one-goal lead and Panthers center Shawn Matthias was in alone on a breakaway, the kind of situation a presumptive No. 1 should handle.
Matthias shot, Lindback made a terrific right-leg save and the Lightning escaped with a 3-2 victory at the BB&T Center.
"I just waited for him to make the first move," Lindback said. "He tried to go low blocker and I got a pad on it. It was nice."
For Tampa Bay (11-14-1), which avoided falling to last in the league, it was nice to see an aggressive and confident Lindback instead of the inconsistent and porous version of the past three weeks.
It needed him, too, as the Panthers outshot the Lighting 39-13; the 13 shots only two greater than the franchise's record low.
Steven Stamkos' league-best 20th goal, on the power play, 5:30 into the third broke a 2-2 tie.
Marty St. Louis had a goal and two assists, Vinny Lecavalier a goal and an assist and Killorn two assists, six hits and was praised by coach Guy Boucher as the team's best skater. As a line they had seven points.
But Lindback, with 37 saves, was the story, holding the fort after the Lightning gained a 2-0 first-period lead despite being outshot 17-3.
"That's the game he needed, that we needed, since the beginning of the year," Boucher said. "He just made the right saves, the key saves, a top goaltender does."
"He was phenomenal," Stamkos said. "Hopefully, this gets him some confidence. I know the team definitely has confidence in him. He did a great job of making the first save and not really giving much."
That was important as the Panthers shot from everywhere, hoping for rebounds that did not materialize.
Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom was probably bored as the Lightning many times was pinned in its own zone by Florida's pressure. Yes, Tampa Bay was down to 10 forwards after Tom Pyatt was lost in the first period to an upper-body injury, but mostly Florida just worked harder.
Plus, "we do pass up way too many shots," Boucher said, "and that bothers me a lot."
And yet, Tampa Bay won, thanks to Lindback.
"Over a season you're going to have stretches of struggles," said the goalie who entered with one win in five games since Feb. 21. "The most important thing is to keep at it and not get stressed out."
And succeed in a moment of truth.
First—1, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 7 (St. Louis, Killorn), 1:36. 2, Tampa Bay, St. Louis 7 (Killorn, Lecavalier), 17:48. Penalties—Stamkos, TB (high-sticking), 4:50; Kuba, Fla (interference), 5:36; Salo, TB (hooking), 10:20; Killorn, TB (delay of game), 12:32.
Second—3, Florida, Versteeg 2 (Goc), :13. 4, Florida, Kopecky 11 (Skille), 11:24. Penalties—Bergeron, TB (high-sticking), 2:44.
Third—5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 20 (Purcell, St. Louis), 5:30 (pp). Penalties—Gudbranson, Fla (tripping), 4:53. Shots—T.B. 3-3-7—13. Fla. 17-13-9—39. Power plays—T.B. 1 of 2; Fla. 0 of 4. Goalies—T.B., Lindback 9-6-1 (39 shots-37 saves). Fla., Markstrom 1-5-1 (13-10). A—15,174 (17,040).