SUNRISE — Coach Guy Boucher pointed out a recurring theme in the Lightning's recent slide:
"The games that used to go our way just don't go our way now," he said.
Case in point was Saturday night's 4-3 overtime loss to the Panthers, in last place in the Southeast Division, at the BankAtlantic Center.
The Lightning showed a lot of fight in overcoming a two-goal third-period deficit. And with about 25 seconds left in overtime, Marty St. Louis raced on a two-on-one, looking to set up the league's top goal scorer, Steven Stamkos.
"Nine and a half times out of 10, Marty makes that play," Stamkos said.
But Florida defenseman Mike Weaver got his stick down to block the pass, sparking a Panthers two-on-one the other way, which ended with defenseman Jason Garrison scoring the winner with 16 seconds left.
Though the Lightning (38-22-9) picked up a point and moved three points behind the idle Capitals for first place in the Southeast, it has just one win in its past seven games and is just two points ahead of the Canadiens, who won in regulation Saturday, for the fifth spot in the Eastern Conference.
But unlike Friday's home loss to the Senators, in last place in the East — a defeat that had Boucher calling the team's early effort "unacceptable" and "disgraceful" — Tampa Bay battled Saturday all the way through, including outshooting Florida 38-27.
"We fought with everything we had," Boucher said. "We didn't quit."
The score was tied 1-1 heading into the third period, but the Panthers scored twice in the first six minutes to take the lead. On the first goal, center Ryan Carter carried the puck from his zone up the middle all the way before wristing a shot from between the circles past goalie Mike Smith.
"This time of year, you can't let those goals in," said Smith, who had 23 saves in his second start since returning from AHL Norfolk. "Obviously it's frustrating."
The Lightning took advantage of four power plays in the last 10 minutes of regulation to tie it, on goals by Vinny Lecavalier and Simon Gagne, who banked the puck off the post and Florida goalie Scott Clemmensen for his goal.
Tampa Bay thought it had a good shot of pulling it out when St. Louis and Stamkos were on their overtime odd-man rush. St. Louis said he liked his chances in getting Stamkos the puck.
"I've had that play many times this year," St. Louis said. "And I can't say I've missed many times."
Said Stamkos: "That's the way it's going for us right now."
Joe Smith can be reached at email@example.com.
First Period—None. Penalties—Thompson, TB (roughing), 9:38; Hedman, TB (hooking), 14:50; Reasoner, Fla (tripping), 16:08; Florida bench, served by Repik (too many men), 19:50.
Second Period—1, Florida, Booth 21 (Weaver, Ellerby), 4:33. 2, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 43 (St. Louis, Gagne), 14:10 (pp). Penalties—Booth, Fla (high-sticking), 12:02; Garrison, Fla (hooking), 13:29; Tyrell, TB (holding stick), 14:34; Clark, TB (interference), 18:04.
Third Period—3, Florida, Carter 2 (Kulikov), 2:22. 4, Florida, Bergfors 12 (Garrison, Weiss), 5:18. 5, Tampa Bay, Lecavalier 17 (St. Louis, Gagne), 12:35 (pp). 6, Tampa Bay, Gagne 11 (Lecavalier, Stamkos), 17:55 (pp). Penalties—Garrison, Fla, double minor (high-sticking), 9:27; Florida bench, served by Thomas (too many men), 12:27; Bergfors, Fla (high-sticking), 17:36.
Overtime—7, Florida, Garrison 4 (Santorelli, Reasoner), 4:44. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 8-10-19-1—38. Florida 5-8-9-5—27. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 3 of 8; Florida 0 of 4. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Smith 10-6-1 (27 shots-23 saves). Florida, Clemmensen 7-7-4 (38-35). A—16,607 (17,040).
With nonshootout wins (first tiebreaker in determining final playoff spots) and games left. Division winners get top three seeds:
East Pts. Wins GR
1. Flyers9140 14
2. Capitals 88 36 13
3. Bruins 85 37 14
4. Penguins86 34 13
5. Lightning8532 13
6. Canadiens83 36 13
7. Sabres74 28 14
8. Rangers* 74 28 12
9. Hurricanes72 27 13
10. Maple Leafs702613
West Pts. Wins GR
1. Canucks* 97 40 13
2. Red Wings903713
3. Sharks* 85 34 14
4. Stars 82 32 14
5. Blackhawks 81 32 14
6. Kings 81 31 14
7. Coyotes 81 31 13
8. Flames* 81 28 12
9. Predators 80 29 13
10. Ducks 79 33 14
11. Wild 77 33 13
12. Blue Jackets732814
* Late result not included