Malone notches shootout winner as Lightning top Panthers

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By Rick Menning

PA SportsTicker Contributing Writer

SUNRISE, Florida (Ticker) -- Defenseman Steve Eminger recorded a

goal and two assists and Ryan Malone netted the shootout winner

to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 4-3 win over the Florida

Panthers on Friday.

Veteran Mark Recchi and Evgeny Artyukhin also scored in

regulation for the Lightning, who have won back-to-back games

for the first time since November 1.

Jussi Jokinen and Adam Hall were also successful in the shootout

for Tampa Bay.

"It feels good. Any win's a win," Malone said. "Guys are doing

a good job of working as a unit of five on the ice, feeding off

each other and helping each other out. Things are coming

together now."

Defenseman Bryan McCabe scored for the Panthers with 14 seconds

remaining in the third period to force overtime.

"(Stephen Weiss) made a great play and (the puck) just happened

to bounce out at my wheelhouse and I got it on net," McCabe

said. "We had some opportunities. We stuck with it and got a

big point. We'll take it."

The Lightning struck for a pair of goals late in the second

period to break open a 1-1 deadlock.

"I thought we had a real disappointing second period from an

effort point of view. I wasn't real happy," Florida coach Peter

DeBoer said. "I didn't think our forwards put enough pressure

on (Tampa Bay). I thought we sat back too much in the second

period for my liking."

But despite the negatives of that period, DeBoer found a big

positive in the never-say-die attitude at the end.

"We're going to look at the bright side - we found a way to get

a point," DeBoer said. "We know we have to do better. We dug

deep inside and got a point. This is no easy league and there

are no easy teams."

Lightning interim coach Rick Tocchet had a different perspective

on the outcome.

"Letting a two-goal lead (go) at the end kind of leaves a sour

taste in your mouth, but (we) grinded it out and got the win,"

Tocchet said. "When you have a wounded snake, you have to kill

it. We didn't. We let it bite us and you can't let that

happen."

Recchi tipped in a shot from Eminger for his eighth goal of the

season and Artyukhin followed 90 seconds later with a

backhander that slid past Tomas Vokoun for a 3-1 advantage.

Weiss said the Panthers broke down in a number of areas in the

second period.

"They trapped all night and we turned the puck over too much,"

Weiss said. "They had a lot more time of possession in our zone

than we would have liked, but we turned that around in the

third. We have to make sure we go out there and play hard for

60 minutes."

Vokoun's streak of stopping 55 consecutive shots over two-plus

games ended when Tampa Bay capitalized on a rare misplay by the

Finn midway through the first period.

The Florida netminder attempted to kick aside Eminger's blast

from the blue line, but wound up deflecting the puck off his

stick and into the net at 11:24 of the first period.

"That's huge, that's just huge," Eminger said. "We've got to

find some way to build on (this effort)."

The Panthers tied it with just under two minutes left in the

period. With goaltender Mike Smith out of position on a

clearing attempt, the puck found its way to the top of the right

circle where defenseman Keith Ballard drilled home a one-timer.

Cory Stillman cut the deficit to 3-2 with 6:23 left in the third

period when he tipped in a pass from blue-liner Jay Bouwmeester

while parked in from of the crease to Smith's glove side.

"Both our teams play hard. They're battling for their lives and

we're battling for a playoff spot," said Florida goaltender

Craig Anderson, who replaced Vokoun in the third period. "(The

shootout) is a crap shoot. You put individuals out there and

anything can happen."

Artyukhin was involved in two fights, one with Nick Tarsasky

late in the first period and another with defenseman Nick

Boynton at the end of the second.

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