Ondrej Palat scores late in 3rd, Lightning beat Panthers 3-2
TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Ondrej Palat gave the short-handed Tampa Bay Lightning a full two points in the standings.
Palat scored with 2:23 left to give the Lightning a 3-2 victory over the Florida Panthers on Saturday night.
Palat redirected Andrej Sustr’s shot to complete Tampa Bay’s comeback from a two-goal deficit.
“We stuck with it,” Palat said. “I’m happy it went in. Today, got a lucky bounce.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 32 saves, and Nikita Kucherov and Yanni Gourde also scored for the Lightning. They are 10-2-3 in their last 15 games, and trail Toronto by three points for the second wild-card in the Eastern Conference.
“Everybody knows where we’re at, desperation,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said.
Tampa Bay played without centers Tyler Johnson, Cedric Paquette and Vladislav Namestnikov, who all left Thursday night’s 4-1 win over Minnesota with lower-body injuries. They join Steven Stamkos, out since November after right knee surgery but now practicing.
Jaromir Jagr and Mark Pysyk scored for Florida, and James Reimer stopped 31 shots. The Panthers have lost eight of nine (1-7-1).
“It’s tough to win this time of year,” Florida center Derek MacKenzie said. “I can tell you, we certainly don’t feel like we’re out of it.”
The Panthers are seven points back of the Maple Leafs.
Florida took a 2-0 lead in the first when Jagr got his 14th goal this season and 763rd overall, and then screened Vasilveskiy on Pysyk’s goal.
Kucherov scored his career-best 31st goal during a power play and Gourde scored with the Lightning short-handed for his first NHL goal as Tampa Bay tied it at 2 midway through the second.
Kucherov has 10 goals and 18 points over his last nine games.
Florida had two players hurt in the second.
Defenseman Aaron Ekblad went to the locker room after his head hit the glass on a check by Gabriel Dumont and didn’t return.
Panthers center Denis Malgin was hurt on an Anton Stralman hit and also left the game.
Panthers coach Tom Rowe said Ekblad and Malgin both have concussions.
“The Malgin hit by Stralman, a good, clean hit,” Rowe said. “I thought the hit on Ekblad was dangerous. We’ll leave that up to the league to review it and see what they think of it.”
The Panthers also lost defenseman Alex Petrovic to a game misconduct in the second.
NOTES: Florida had a streak of not allowing a power-play goal end at 12 straight games. ... Tampa Bay D Victor Hedman got his 23rd power-play assist on Kucherov’s goal. ... Panthers G Roberto Luongo missed his fourth straight game due to a lower-body injury and could be out another week or two. ... Jagr has 36 goals and 83 points in 80 games against Tampa Bay. ... Linesman Pierre Racicot went to the locker room late in the third with an undisclosed injury.
Panthers: Host Toronto on Tuesday night.
Lightning: Start a two-game trip Monday night at the New York Rangers.