MIAMI (AP) — 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.
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