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SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) – The Florida Panthers have a chance to secure a very successful weekend on Sunday, but it won’t be easy as they face a team that has had a lot of success against them.
Steven Stamkos and Ben Bishop got the Tampa Bay Lightning back on track before a busy March.
They’ve also played a significant role in the team’s recent success against the Panthers.
The Lightning will try to kick off the month with a sixth consecutive win over their in-state rivals and their seventh in a row on the road in the series Sunday.
Stamkos scored a pair of goals Friday as Tampa Bay (38-19-6) bounced back from last Sunday’s loss in Colorado with a 4-0 victory over Chicago. Bishop made 28 saves in his second shutout this season and improved to 4-0-0 with a 1.25 goals-against average in his last four starts.
“This is the time of the year you want to see your guy – and he’s the guy – get hot,” associate coach Rick Bowness said. “We hope that continues the way he played (Friday).”
Tampa Bay, winner in three of four and the league’s highest-scoring team at 3.25 goals per game, is one point ahead of third-place Detroit in the Atlantic Division but trail Montreal by five. The Lightning will face those teams a combined five times in their 15 games in March.
Stamkos has four goals in his team’s past three wins and has scored six of his 34 in the past seven contests. He’s had 15 goals and eight assists in his last 14 games against Florida (27-22-13), while Bishop is 5-0-0 with a 1.89 GAA in five lifetime matchups.
The Lightning are facing the Panthers for the first time since a 3-2 overtime win at home in the season opener Oct. 9 and will see a different-looking club.
Florida acquired Jaromir Jagr – one goal shy of tying Phil Esposito for fifth on the all-time list – from New Jersey on Thursday for a pair of draft picks. The Panthers then sent Tomas Fleischmann to Anaheim on Saturday for a third-round pick and another veteran forward in Dany Heatley, who could remain in the AHL at least initially.
Jagr did not register a point in his debut Saturday, but Florida ended an 0-3-1 skid with a 5-3 win over Buffalo. Brandon Pirri had a pair of goals and Jussi Jokinen registered three assists as Florida rallied from an early 2-0 deficit.
The win kept the Panthers within four points of Boston for the Eastern Conference’s final playoff spot.
“I wish I could score, but it doesn’t matter, we won,” said Jagr, who has 716 goals. “When you come to a new team, you just want the first game to be a victory, and I’m happy about that.”
Jagr has one goal and two assists in his last seven games against Tampa Bay, but zero points in his past three, including two this season.
Valtteri Filppula has a team-best nine points in Tampa Bay’s five-game win streak against the Panthers (three goals, six assists). He registered 10 of his 44 points in the past nine contests, totaling one goal and nine assists.
Roberto Luongo started for Florida on Saturday and it’s unclear if he’ll go in both ends of this back-to-back set. He was in net for the season opener against Tampa Bay and is 1-2-1 with a 2.77 GAA in his last four matchups.
Backup netminder Al Montoya has allowed one goal in each of his last two meetings but the most recent was Dec. 7, 2013.
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