TAMPA — Steven Stamkos had a second-period shift Thursday that lasted 2 minutes, 46 seconds as he played before, during and after a power play.
"I guess my legs are pretty good because I felt great out there," said the Lightning captain, who played his fourth game after missing four months with a broken right tibia. "If I would have done that my first game, I would have been passing out. But now I feel a little refreshed."
And relieved, to an extent, after getting his first goal since his return, a power-play one-timer that gave Tampa Bay a 5-2 lead and was the winner in a 5-4 victory over the Panthers.
"It's nice, confidence-wise, to get it going," said Stamkos, whose 15th goal was his first since Nov. 9. "To see one go in, it's reassuring all the hard work I put in while I was out is paying off."
Stamkos also had an assist, was 6-for-6 on faceoffs and had 20:11 of ice time. What he did not do was play right wing, though coach Jon Cooper had indicated before the game he would start Stamkos there on a line with C Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn for the dual purpose of taking some pressure off Stamkos' leg and perhaps creating some offensive juice.
The goal, Cooper said, was "classic 'Stammer,' " as he snapped a shot past helpless former Lightning G Dan Ellis. The key was a perfect cross-ice pass from C Valtteri Filppula.
"That's why you've got to love him as a captain," Cooper said of Stamkos. "He didn't go and jump in the crowd or do any of that kind of stuff (when he scored). He went right over to (Filppula) and acknowledged the pass. That's why he's our captain."
MEDICAL MATTERS: D Radko Gudas, out four games with a left leg injury, and D Sami Salo, who played just three minutes Monday against the Coyotes because of a lower-body injury, were in the lineup.
AS PREDICTED: Ryan Callahan's first Lightning goal was scored exactly how Cooper expected, with the right wing charging hard to the net to re-direct the puck.
"I love that kid," Cooper said. "He just works so hard."
Callahan, who came to Tampa Bay from the Rangers in the Marty St. Louis deal, has a goal and three points in four games and is plus-3.
His goal was the end of a terrific passing play that went from Filppula, who held the puck to draw defenders and then passed to Ondrej Palat, who passed to Callahan. "It's always nice to get that first one out of the way, and we move on," Callahan said.
CUP FEVER: The Stanley Cup can be seen as part of the 10th anniversary celebration of the Lightning's 2004 title.
Sunday: At Thunder Alley (west plaza) of the Tampa Bay Times Forum, 11:30 a.m.-1 p.m.; Between the Pipes on the Times Forum terrace level (season-ticket holders only), 2:45-6 p.m.
Monday: At Thunder Alley, 5:30-7 p.m.
ODDS AND ENDS: G Ben Bishop's 30th win of the season tied Nik Khabibulin's team record set in 2002-03. … Florida's power-play goal was the first such goal Tampa Bay allowed at home since Jan. 23 (15-for-15 in six games). … Gudas had 10 hits. … Forwards Ryan Malone and B.J. Crombeen, and defensemen Keith Aulie and Mark Barberio were scratched.