SUNRISE — How easy would it have been Saturday for Lightning players to give up?
The Panthers, with three goals in a stretch of 3:29 to end the second period and start the third, had turned a one-goal deficit into a two-goal lead.
For a team on a six-game losing streak, it had to be a punch in the gut. Instead, it merely set the stage for a dramatic 6-5 overtime victory at the BB&T Center.
"It shows guys aren't going to quit," wing Ben Pouliot said, "and are going to play hard to the end."
Right to the end. Teddy Purcell scored with 10.4 seconds left in regulation, and Pouliot won it 1:19 into overtime with his second goal of the game.
"That's what I liked: There was no real letdown," coach Guy Boucher said. "We stayed the same and grinded it out."
It was the third straight game in which the Lightning (7-6-1) mounted a furious third-period comeback, also gaining a regulation tie (though a shootout loss) Tuesday against the Canadiens.
Steven Stamkos had two goals and three points against Florida. Purcell had three points with two assists.
Marty St. Louis had two assists. Captain Vinny Lecavalier had an assist, five hits and won 11 of 18 faceoffs, and Alex Killorn, in his fourth NHL game, got his first goal.
There were plenty of mistakes, too.
Three Panthers goals came off turnovers, something Tampa Bay must clean up. And when Jerred Smithson scored with 4.2 seconds left in the second period and Florida got goals from Jonathan Huberdeau and Tomas Kopecky to go up 5-3 3:24 into the third, things looked bleak.
But, Purcell said, "We have a good leadership group that stays positive on the bench. We just believe in each other."
Stamkos' vintage power-play one-timer made it 5-4 7:28 into the third. His gorgeous backhand pass from behind the net set up Purcell for the tying goal.
And Pouliot, a fixture in front of the net, was there for the winner off Tom Pyatt's pass.
"We never quit," Stamkos said. "That's never a question and never will be a question."
It is a notable trait on a team that has given itself so many reasons to hang its head. But Boucher insists the Lightning is doing "a lot of good things," and its 36 shots against the Panthers were a season high.
Perhaps that is why players say they aren't far from a turnaround.
"I remember last year there were some games when it felt like we didn't touch the puck at all," Purcell said. "This year we always feel like we're in it."
Well, at least they're never out of it.
First Period—1, Florida, Matthias 3 (Weaver, Skille), :48. 2, Tampa Bay, Pouliot 4 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 4:48. 3, Tampa Bay, Killorn 1 (Carle), 6:51. Penalties—Skille, Fla (tripping), 14:05; Stamkos, TB (holding), 19:41.
Second Period—4, Florida, Skille 2 (Matthias, Weaver), 2:27. 5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 8 (Conacher, Purcell), 3:42. 6, Florida, Smithson 1 (Kovalev), 19:55. Penalties—Weaver, Fla (hooking), 14:47.
Third Period—7, Florida, Huberdeau 6 (Shore, Strachan), 1:53. 8, Florida, Kopecky 3 (Weiss, Campbell), 3:24. 9, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 9 (Purcell, St. Louis), 7:28 (pp). 10, Tampa Bay, Purcell 4 (Stamkos, Thompson), 19:49. Penalties—Conacher, TB (diving), 5:42; Kovalev, Fla (tripping), 6:40; Campbell, Fla (roughing), 6:58; Bergeron, TB (interference), 11:56.
Overtime—11, Tampa Bay, Pouliot 5 (Pyatt, Bergeron), 1:19. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 10-11-14-1—36. Florida 11-8-10-1—30. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 1 of 4; Florida 0 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Lindback 6-3-1 (30 shots-25 saves). Florida, Theodore 4-5-2 (36-30). A—17,009 (17,040).