SUNRISE (CBSMiami/AP) — For those who may have thought the Florida Panthers winning streak was a fluke, they need look no further than the past couple days.READ MORE: 2 People In Very Serious Condition After Shooting Not Far From FTX Arena
The Panthers are proving they are one of the elite teams in the NHL.
Jonathan Huberdeau had a goal and an assist, sending the Panthers to a 5-2 victory over Tampa Bay that ended the Lightning’s seven-game winning streak Saturday night.
After drubbing the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks 4-0 on Friday, the Panthers have beaten both of last season’s Stanley Cup finalists on successive nights.
“We knew it was going to be two tough games,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “It was a good challenge for our team.”
The Panthers won their second straight after a four-game skid and increased their lead in the Atlantic Division to five points.
“We know we can beat any team in the league,” Huberdeau said. “We know what we’re capable of and we showed it this weekend.”
Brian Campbell, Vincent Trocheck, Reilly Smith and Nick Bjugstad also scored for Florida. Roberto Luongo stopped 38 shots.
Luongo gave up two goals late in the third, halting a scoreless streak of 127 minutes, 9 seconds. The Lightning took 22 shots in the period.
“I need a lot of rest after tonight,” Luongo said.
Victor Hedman and J.T. Brown scored for the Lightning. Ben Bishop, who allowed four goals in his previous four starts, gave up four on 30 shots. He was replaced by Andrei Vasilevskiy at the start of the third period.
“We got away (from) what’s made us successful the past couple games,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said.READ MORE: Florida Hospital Administrators Ask Lawmakers For Help Amid Staffing Crisis
Vasilevskiy stopped four shots, and Tampa Bay played with an empty net for much of the third period, first pulling the goalie with 10:27 left.
“You’re trying to get back in the hockey game. They had a 4-0 lead,” coach Jon Cooper said. “We’re trying to win the game. Give Florida credit. They didn’t let us get that second goal.”
The Panthers scored four times in the second, when they outshot the Lightning 19-5 and matched their season high for goals in a period.
Huberdeau put Florida ahead 1-0 when his shot from the left circle went over Bishop’s glove at 8:50.
Bjugstad gave the Panthers a 2-0 lead on their first power-play goal in 29 attempts. Huberdeau passed to Bjugstad at the left side of the crease and he poked in the puck at 12:36.
Florida’s previous power-play goal came on Jan. 2 against the New York Rangers, 10 games ago.
Smith stretched the margin to 3-0 when a pass attempt went off the skate of Hedman and into the net with 4:04 left in the period. Smith is tied with Jaromir Jagr for the team lead with 15 goals.
Trocheck capped the rally when his shot went up in the air and over Bishop to make it 4-0 with 2:48 remaining in the second.
“Back-to-back lucky bounces,” Bishop said. “It could have been 2-0 going into the third.”
Hedman’s slap shot from the slot on a power play got past Luongo at 5:39 of the third. Brown’s goal came with 1:29 left.
Campbell added an empty-net goal with 4:08 remaining.
NOTES: NHL linesman Pierre Racicot officiated in his 1,500th game. He was given a signed jersey from both teams in a pregame ceremony. … Panthers D Willie Mitchell was placed on injured reserve with lower-body injuries. … C Brandon Pirri, mired in a six-game scoring slump, was scratched for the second straight game. … Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov extended his point streak to eight games with an assist on Hedman’s goal.MORE NEWS: Florida City Police Officers Arrest Driver Wanted In Fatal Hit-&-Run Of Mini Scooter Rider
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