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Tampa Bay Lightning's playoff hopes nearly dead after 5-2 loss to Florida Panthers

Stephen Weiss (9) scores past Lightning goalie Mike Smith early in the third to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead 1:54 after Steven Stamkos had pulled Tampa Bay within 3-2.

Associated Press

Stephen Weiss (9) scores past Lightning goalie Mike Smith early in the third to give the Panthers a 4-2 lead 1:54 after Steven Stamkos had pulled Tampa Bay within 3-2.

SUNRISE — For those who still hold out hope the Lightning somehow can sneak into the playoffs, consider this:

With its 5-2 loss Sunday to the Panthers at the BankAtlantic Center, Tampa Bay plummeted to 14th in the 15-team East, eight points behind the eighth-place Bruins for the final playoff spot.

In other words, if Boston (32-27-12) goes 5-5-1 in its final 11 games to finish with 87 points, Tampa Bay (28-32-12) would have to be undefeated in its final 10 to reach 88. And that doesn't take into consideration the other five teams the Lightning has to leap.

"The odds are stacked against us," center Steven Stamkos said. "We have to play for something, right? It's still within reach, but it's not going to be easy, that's for sure."

It will be impossible if the team plays as it has in a 2-11-1 streak, including five straight losses in which it has been outscored 18-7.

Coach Rick Tocchet tried to shake things up by putting left wing Marty St. Louis with center Vinny Lecavalier and Teddy Purcell, and left wing Alex Tanguay with Stamkos and Steve Downie.

But St. Louis had zero shots and is without a goal in seven straight games. Tanguay, in the lineup after Saturday's scratch against the Capitals, had one shot and is without a goal in 15.

"We're just not getting any bounces," Stamkos said. "We just don't get any breaks, and when things go bad, they really go bad. … It seems that every game there's a certain time and point we panic and fall apart."

That was in Sunday's first period, when the Panthers scored three times in 4:16 to take a 3-1 lead with 1:32 remaining.

Florida scored every which way in the game: with a deflection off a Lightning stick; with at least one softy allowed by goaltender Mike Smith; when defenseman Kurtis Foster's stick broke as he tried to swat away the puck and put it in his net; and with Tampa Bay's defense offering little close-in grit.

"The biggest thorn for us is we have too many goals in front of the net," Tocchet said. "We've just got to get tougher in front of the net. It's really costing us."

Stamkos' 43rd goal and team-record 19th on the power play broke a five-game goal drought, and Downie scored his 19th, which gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead 6:04 into the game. But it was not nearly enough for a team that on Feb. 10 was sixth in the East and talking playoffs.

Asked about the postseason now, Downie said, "We've got to figure out how to win a game first."

Panthers 3 0 2 5
Lightning 1 0 1 2
Panthers 3 0 2 5
Lightning 1 0 1 2

First Period1, Tampa Bay, Downie 19, 6:04. 2, Florida, Horton 18 (Stillman, Weiss), 14:12 (pp). 3, Florida, Booth 6 (Bitz, Ballard), 17:42. 4, Florida, Stillman 15 (Horton), 18:28. PenaltiesKonopka, TB, major (fighting), 2:09; Tarnasky, Fla, major (fighting), 2:09; Konopka, TB, minor-major-misconduct (instigator, fighting), 13:12; Tarnasky, Fla, major (fighting), 13:12; Tampa Bay bench, served by Tanguay (too many men), 15:39; Booth, Fla (holding), 20:00.

Second PeriodNone. PenaltiesHale, TB (hooking), 9:55.

Third Period5, Tampa Bay, Stamkos 43 (Lecavalier, St. Louis), 2:08 (pp). 6, Florida, Weiss 25 (Allen, Ballard), 4:03. 7, Florida, Dvorak 12 (Garrison), 15:34. PenaltiesAllen, Fla (hooking), :49; Downie, TB (slashing), 8:28; Konopka, TB (boarding), 17:59. Shots on GoalTampa Bay 10-12-9—31. Florida 14-8-18—40. Power-play opportunitiesTampa Bay 1 of 2; Florida 1 of 5. GoaliesTampa Bay, Smith 10-16-7 (40 shots-35 saves). Florida, Clemmensen 6-6-0 (31-29). A14,831 (19,250).

Panthers 5

Lightning 2

Tampa Bay Lightning's playoff hopes nearly dead after 5-2 loss to Florida Panthers 03/21/10 [Last modified: Sunday, March 21, 2010 10:05pm]
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