Sunday, March 13, 2011

Cats Survive Scare, Edge Lightning 4-3 in OT

March 13, 2011

SUNRISE - The Florida Panthers topped the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in overtime last night at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise. With the win, Florida secures the Sunshine State Series while Tampa Bay is seeing its hopes at the Southeast Division crown begin to fade.

After a scoreless first period, Florida got on the board early in the second frame. David Booth had a wrist shot off a pass from Mike Weaver at the 4:33 mark in the frame. It was Booth's team leading 21st goal of the year. Keaton Ellerby also assisted on the goal to put Florida ahead.

The ice cold Lightning couldn't get anything going until Steven Stamkos evened things up at the 14:10 mark. After a Jason Garrison hooking call, Stamkos did what he does best, ripping a slap shot for his league-leading 43rd goal of the season. Martin St. Louis and Simon Gagne assisted on the play which sent the teams into the locker room back at square one.

The Panthers were not going to die in this battle. Ryan Carter...yes, the guy the Panthers got for Corey Stillman, was playing his first game since getting injured as a member of the Hurricanes. He took full advantage of his role with the new team, scoring the go-ahead goal just 2:22 into the period. It was only his second goal of the year, his first coming back when he was a member of the Anaheim Ducks earlier in the season. Dmitry Kulikov and Mike Santorelli assisted on the goal.

And they were not done. Niclas Bergfors scored HIS first goal as a member of the Panthers just under 3 minutes later, putting the Cats ahead 3-1. Jason Garrison and Stephen Weiss helped on Bergfors' 12th goal of the year.

But the Panthers let down their guard against a really good team early. Garrison took a 4-minute hi-sticking call after Stamkos drew blood. Then, minutes later, the Panthers took a bench minor for too many men on the ice...just seconds into the 5-3,  at 12:35, Vincent Lecavalier scored his 17th on a tip in from St. Louis (his 55th assist) and Gagne.

And after another hi-sticking penalty, this time on Bergfors, Gagne scored a wrap-around at 17:55 to tie it up and send the game to OT. Lecavalier and Stamkos assisted on the tying goal.

In the final minute of overtime, many fans believed the Panthers and Lightning were doomed to face the shoot out, but then after a Marty Reasoner interception in the defensive zone, the Panthers began a breakout, Santorelli passed the puck across the ice to a waiting Garrison who backhanded in his 4th goal of the year, and his 3rd game winner, at the 4:44 mark to send the fans home happy.

The Lightning now begin a 3 game Canada trip on Monday while the Panthers are off until Tuesday when they face the Philadelphia Flyers at home.

CAT BYTES: Both teams started their backup goalies. 16,607 attended the game Saturday night at the BankAtlantic Center. Bill Thomas and Tim Kennedy were sent back to Rochester following the game. They will most likely re-appear in the Panthers lineup Tuesday, though.

THREE STARS: 3) Steven Stamkos 1 G 1 A 2) Simon Gagne 1 G 2 A 1) Jason Garrison GWG 1 A

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