Both teams entered with a streak. Neither was broken when the final horn sounded.
After a 5-2 home win by the Lightning, both streaks continue with each team headed in opposite directions.
Steven Stamkos opened the scoring for the Bolts on the power play. After both Sami Salo and Vincent Lecavalier broke their sticks on one-timer attempts, Stamkos fired the puck on Panthers goalie Jose Theodore then roofed his own rebound for a 1-0 Lightning lead.
Before the goal could even be announced in the rink, however, Florida answered.
Lightning goaltender Anders Lindback misplayed the puck behind his own net and appeared to panic a bit as Peter Mueller dragged it towards the net, flopping around in the crease before Mueller buried it to tie the score at 1-1.
From there, however, the potent and balanced Lightning attack took over.
While the stable of bottom-6 forwards has performed admirably in defensive and penalty-killing roles this season for the Lightning, Guy Boucher has constantly juggled them trying to find consistency and chemistry.
All three possess tremendous speed, something that is not typical of a third line normally charged with checking the opponent's top scoring line. The second and third D-pairing for the Panthers were completely outmatched by the speed to the edges displayed by that forward group and they were constantly hemmed in by the trio.
After rookie Cory Conacher scored on a breakaway goal to regain the lead, the Pouliot-Pyatt-Tyrell line went to work.
Pyatt made it 3-1 with his 3rd goal of the season with an assist from Tyrell, who drove wide on the rush and flipped the puck towards the net, off Pyatt's glove, and between Jose Theodore's pads. The goal was briefly reviewed but rightfully termed a good goal as Pyatt clearly did not glove it in intentionally.
On their next shift, the line went to work again, first establishing possession in the Panthers end. After briefly losing the puck, Pouliot hustled on the backcheck and picked Kris Versteeg's pocket cleanly, starting a transition game back the other way. Pyatt fended off his man behind the net and fed a waiting Dana Tyrell in front of the net for his first goal of the season and a 4-1 lead.
Captain Vincent Lecavalier added a power play marker in the third period off a pretty passing play that started with Victor Hedman but went through Benoit Pouliot and Cory Conacher before landing on Vinny's stick for the easy one-timer goal.
Other than a soft goal given up on a mental mistake by Anders Lindback in the first and a clean shorthanded breakaway goal given up to Tomas Fleischmann by a lazy Lightning 2nd power play unit, the Bolts played perhaps their best and most complete game of the season. They even improved on their league-leading 4.8 goals per game average by putting five pucks behind Jose Theodore.
If the third line established against Florida can provide a balanced attack it spells good things for a Bolts squad that has not enjoyed a strong, offensively contributing third line since Steve Downie, Dominic Moore and Sean Bergenheim during the playoff run of 2010-2011.
Tampa Bay plays next against the Winnipeg Jets on Friday night in Tampa Bay. The Bolts will again get the favor of facing off against a tired squad at home; the Jets face off against the Panthers in Sunrise on Thursday night.
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