SUNRISE — The Lightning is about as close to the bottom of the league as it can be without actually being there.
After Saturday night's 4-2 loss to the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center, Tampa Bay is tied with the Kings for fewest points with 66, and its 29 victories are one fewer than Los Angeles.
But the Lightning, 2-10-2 in its past 14 in Sunrise, has played 75 games to the Kings' 76, and according to NHL rules, that keeps Tampa Bay (29-38-8) ahead in the standings. Little consolation for a team that wrapped up an 0-3 road trip outscored 15-8, including 10-2 in the third period.
It didn't help facing the red-hot Panthers, on an 8-0-1 streak and still part of the playoff chase, or Tomas Vokoun. The goalie, who is on a 5-0-1 streak with a 1.62 goals-against average and .950 save percentage, made 35 saves, including 16 in the second period when Tampa Bay outshot Florida 17-5 on its way to a 37-26 advantage.
Even so, Tampa Bay's power play, 7-for-18 in its previous five games, was 0-for-5 after 7:29 with the man-advantage. Why? Vokoun.
"(Vokoun) played a great game; not great, unbelievable," said Lightning center Vinny Lecavalier, who had seven shots. "I thought I beat him a few times. He was always there. He was really good and read the play well. He really kept them in the game."
Lightning goalie Mike Smith made 22 saves, but his brutal first-period giveaway led to Jay Bouwmeester's power-play goal.
Junior Lessard tied the score 1-1 6:13 into the second with his first goal of the season. But Nathan Horton's goal 75 seconds later was the winner.
Vokoun, at 9:23 of the third, made a sprawling arm save on a hard-charging Lecavalier. Forty-seven seconds later, Olli Jokinen's goal, Florida's second on the power play, was insurance.
Smith was pulled with 2:46 left. Horton took advantage with an empty-netter with 2:17 remaining. Mathieu Darche's late goal was window dressing.
"We worked hard and had a lot of offensive chances," said Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle, who had six shots. "But you have to be opportunistic in this league. They were, and we certainly weren't. We missed some chances. And they go the other way, and they score."
On the Panthers' first goal, Smith gloved a floating puck, then tried to pass to Boyle. But the ill-advised pass went to Bouwmeester. Add that Smith fell, and Bouwmeester scored into an empty net.
"I have no beef with how the team played," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "We dominated most of the second half of that game. Vokoun's the difference. We couldn't score. That's why they've won so many games."
First Period—1, Florida, Bouwmeester 13, 3:31 (pp). Penalty—St. Louis, TB (holding), 2:25.
Second Period—2, Tampa Bay, Lessard 1 (Darche, Kuba), 6:13. 3, Florida, Horton 24 (Booth, Weiss), 7:28. Penalties—Cullimore, Fla (hooking), 1:14; Johansson, Fla (hooking), 9:51; Campbell, Fla (slashing), 11:39; Lecavalier, TB (slashing), 12:08; Kreps, Fla (hooking), 13:33; McLean, Fla (tripping), 15:14.
Third Period—4, Florida, Jokinen 33 (McLean, Johansson), 10:10 (pp). 5, Florida, Horton 25 (Bouwmeester, Cullimore), 17:43 (en). 6, Tampa Bay, Darche 6 (Karlsson), 18:49. Penalties—Ouellet, TB (tripping), 1:55; Boyle, TB (hooking), 9:37; Boyle, TB (closing hand on puck), 19:20. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 3-17-17—37. Florida 9-5-12—26. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Florida 2 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 15-16-0 (25 shots-22 saves). Florida, Vokoun 30-26-8 (37-35). A—18,502 (19,250).