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
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
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.