SUNRISE — Rick Tocchet was not going to get fooled again. He was not going to believe that one heartening win at Pittsburgh on Tuesday would set in motion the big fix for the mess that has been the Lightning season.
Such had been the notion when the Lightning ended a nine-game winless streak with a victory in Montreal on Dec. 11, only to flop at hapless Ottawa two days later.
So in the resumption of on-ice activity Friday after a two-day Christmas break, the interim coach worked the Lightning players harder than normal for a pregame morning skate to make sure they "were lathered up good" for the Panthers.
"Not to be negative," he said, "but we better be ready to play because … it's going to see how the direction of this club goes after tonight and tomorrow."
For the time being, it's forward, after a misstep.
The Lightning got offensive production from auxiliary sources and effort from all areas, wasted some opportunities and blew a two-goal lead, but held on to beat the Panthers 4-3 in a shootout on Friday at BankAtlantic Center.
In the process, it frustrated a team that entered the game with seven wins in its previous 10 and points in 12 of its previous 14 and might have unearthed some of the character it had been seeking, though Tocchet was trying to erase the "sour taste" of losing a two-goal lead late in the third period.
Adam Hall, Jussi Jokinen and Ryan Malone scored as the Lightning prevailed 3-2 in the shootout to win consecutive games for the second time this season.
"We talk about building on things," said Steve Eminger, who had a goal and three points. "We played a pretty good game, and we ran into some trouble in the end, had some penalty trouble, and that will happen. To build on it, you have to find some way to win, and if it's a shootout, then it's a shootout. We just have to keep on."
Goaltender Mike Smith was again solid but didn't need to be spectacular often as the Lightning held the Panthers to 28 shots and stopped 25. But after a furious Panthers rush in the final minutes stoked by three power plays, Bryan McCabe pounced on an attempted Paul Ranger clear up the middle to tie the score with 13.9 seconds left in regulation. Former Lightning Cory Stillman had pulled the Panthers within a goal with a power-play tip-in with six minutes left in regulation.
Evgeny Artyukhin augmented an interesting night with the would-be winner at 18:27 of the second period. The Lightning had taken a 2-1 lead three minutes earlier when right wing Mark Recchi tipped in a blast from the point by Eminger. The goal was Recchi's eighth of the season. Six of Eminger's 15 points have come in two games against the Panthers.
|Lightning wins shootout 3-2|
|Lightning wins shootout 3-2|
First Period—1, Tampa Bay, Eminger 2 (Ranger), 11:24. 2, Florida, Ballard 4 (Boynton, Dvorak), 18:28. Penalties—Artyukhin, TB, major-misconduct (fighting), 18:28; Tarnasky, Fla, major (fighting), 18:28; Zednik, Fla (hooking), 18:37.
Second Period—3, Tampa Bay, Recchi 8 (Eminger, Pettinger), 16:53. 4, Tampa Bay, Artyukhin 2 (Malone, Eminger), 18:27. Penalties—Bouwmeester, Fla (hooking), 6:10; Skrastins, Fla (high-sticking), 14:04; Prospal, TB (boarding), 14:26; Artyukhin, TB, major (fighting), 20:00; Boynton, Fla, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 20:00.
Third Period—5, Florida, Stillman 8 (Bouwmeester, Ballard), 13:37 (pp). 6, Florida, McCabe 6 (Weiss, Stillman), 19:46. Penalties—Lecavalier, TB (slashing), 6:02; Ranger, TB (delay of game), 7:31; Eminger, TB (tripping), 11:56; Skrastins, Fla (hooking), 14:18; Ranger, TB (holding), 17:12.
Shootout—Tampa Bay 3 (Hall G, Artyukhin NG, Jokinen G, Malone G), Florida 2 (Stillman G, Frolik NG, Horton G, Weiss NG). Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 9-18-8-0—35. Florida 10-9-8-1—28. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 5; Florida 1 of 5. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 7-12-8 (28 shots-25 saves). Florida, Vokoun (27-24), Anderson 8-3-4 (0:00 third, 8-8). A—16,961 (19,250). T—2:37. Referees—Gord Dwyer, Rob Martell. Linesmen—Jonny Murray, Pierre Racicot.