Lightning-Panthers Preview

Following a statement-making victory over the Stanley Cup

champs, the Tampa Bay Lightning pulled off a dramatic late comeback

to cap a solid stretch at home.

Now they’ll try to carry over that momentum on the road Sunday

night when they face the struggling Florida Panthers.

After finishing ahead of only Florida in the Eastern Conference

last season, the resurgent Lightning (7-3-0) are one of the NHL’s

biggest surprises this October.

They improved to 2-0 against defending champion Chicago by

rallying from a third-period deficit for a 6-5 overtime win

Thursday, then came back to beat Buffalo with just over seven

minutes remaining Saturday.

Martin St. Louis and Ondrej Palat scored in the final 5:51 for a

3-2 win over the league-worst Sabres as Tampa Bay completed a 5-2

homestand.

”Are we a good team? I don’t know,” coach Jon Cooper said.

”I’d say we’re a resilient team. Right now, we’re finding ways to

win the close ones. And regardless of who they’re playing, they’re

not getting rattled. It’s just not happening to this team.”

St. Louis, who scored the game-winner against the Blackhawks,

has six goals and 13 points over his past nine games. He also has

seven goals and 10 assists in his last 10 versus the Panthers

(3-7-1).

Teammate Steven Stamkos finished with a hat trick in Tampa Bay’s

7-2 rout of visiting Florida on Oct. 10. He leads the Lightning

with seven goals and 15 points, and has 13 and 19 in his last 11

games against the Panthers.

Following a two-game stretch in which he allowed nine goals on

60 shots, Ben Bishop got back on track Saturday by stopping 20 of

22 for his seventh victory. Bishop, however, could give way to

backup Anders Lindback as the Lightning face back-to-back sets for

the first time.

Lindback, 0-2-0 with a 3.80 goals-against average in three

appearances, is 4-1-0 with a 2.60 GAA in five career starts against

the Panthers.

Whoever gets the nod might not have much of a challenge against

a Florida team that has totaled nine goals while dropping five of

six. The offensively-challenged Panthers rank near the bottom of

the league with 2.0 goals and 27.8 shots per game.

Despite a season-best 45 shots Friday, Florida managed only a

first-period goal from Jesse Winchester in a 3-1 loss to the

visiting Sabres.

”At the end of the day, we’re all about the two points,” coach

Kevin Dineen said. “On that one, it’s not a good night.”

Brad Boyes leads the Panthers with four goals – including one in

the first meeting with the Lightning – but he hasn’t scored in his

last six contests.

With Tim Thomas working his way back from a leg injury, Jacob

Markstrom is likely to get another start after turning aside 18 of

20 shots versus Buffalo.

Markstrom is hoping for better results after giving up six goals

on 24 shots before getting pulled in favor of Scott Clemmensen in

Tampa Bay earlier this month.

Markstrom is 2-3-0 with a 3.89 GAA in five career starts versus

the Lightning, who have dominated this series with an 8-1-1 record

in the last 10 meetings.