Lightning 3, Panthers 1

Scoring into an empty net didn’t make Steven Stamkos’ 51st goal

any less fulfilling.

Vincent Lecavalier and Alex Tanguay also scored, and the Tampa

Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 3-1 Sunday.

Stamkos chased down a loose puck and got an empty-netter with 13

seconds left to tie Pittsburgh’s Sidney Crosby for the league lead

and share a piece of the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy.

“That’s probably the fastest I’ve skated all year,” Stamkos

said. “After all the posts I’ve had, sometimes you get one like

that. It’s nice either way. I’ll take it. I guess it was meant to

be, to get that one in the empty net.”

Crosby scored twice in the Penguins’ win over the New York

Islanders. Washington’s Alex Ovechkin remained at 50 after he was

held scoreless in the Capitals’ loss to Boston.

“It’s pretty surreal,” Stamkos said. “To do it my second year

in the league and to share it with players like Crosby is pretty

special and with a guy like Ovechkin in the mix is pretty special

because he’s such a dominant scorer.”

Mike Smith made 30 saves for the Lightning, who finished the

season with three straight wins.

Rostislav Olesz scored for Florida and Scott Clemmensen stopped

28 shots.

Olesz scored at 2:06 of the first give the Panthers a 1-0 lead.

He dug the puck out of the corner, then brought it out and shot

from the right circle. The puck trickled under Smith’s pad for

Olesz’s first goal in 32 games.

The Lightning tied it on Tanguay’s goal at 8:01 of the first.

Brandon Bochenski took a shot from the slot. Clemmensen stopped it

but Tanguay swooped in for the rebound and put it in with a wrist


The Lightning took a 2-1 lead a few minutes later when

Lecavalier put a wrist shot high into the net over Clemmensen at


After Stamkos scored the Lightning bench erupted.

“The whole bench was up,” Lightning coach Rick Tocchet said.

“It looked like he was shot out of a cannon (on the play). He was

just flying. There’s so many names on that trophy. It’s pretty


Stamkos had several other chances to score. Clemmensen made a

pad save after it appeared Stamkos had him beat with a deke to the

backhand at 14:23 of the first.

At 20 years, 2 months and 3 days, Stamkos is the third-youngest

player to reach 50 goals in a season. Only Wayne Gretzky (19 years,

2 months) and Jimmy Carson (19 years, 8 months) were younger when

they had a 50-goal season. Stamkos, the No. overall pick in the

2008 NHL draft, is the 88th player to reach the mark.

Lecavalier has the single-season franchise mark for Tampa Bay

with 52 goals set during the 2006-07 season.

The Lightning missed the playoffs for the third straight season

but finished with their highest point total (80) since recording 93

in 2006-07.

Florida hasn’t made the playoffs since the 1999-00 season.

“I’m not going to insult anyone’s intelligence and give you a

silver lining or a positive spin on this. It’s a disappoining year

across the board,” Panthers coach Pete DeBoer said.

It was an especially frustrating season since Florida barely

missed the playoffs last year on a tiebreaker with Montreal.

“I really thought this was going to be a breakout year for

us,” Panthers assistant captain Stephen Weiss said. “After last

year we had a lot of momentum and just couldn’t get it done. It’s

certainly disappointing and it’s going to be another long


NOTES: Tampa Bay recalled defenseman Scott Jackson from the

Norfolk Admirals of the AHL. Jackson made his NHL debut in Sunday’s

game. … The Panthers are 7-5-2 with two ties in season finales in

franchise history, while the Lightning improved to 3-12-1 with one

tie in season-ending games.