Panthers-Lightning Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 10, 2013
The Tampa Bay Lightning have demonstrated an early knack for comeback victories. Their coach would like to see a more complete performance. Tampa Bay follows a three-game trip with its home opener Thursday night against the Florida Panthers. The Lightning are 2-1-0 despite not holding a lead in regulation. After a 3-1 loss at Boston last Thursday, they scrapped for a 3-2 shootout victory in Chicago, overcoming a two-goal, third-period deficit. Then they erased a 2-1 hole on the way to a 3-2 overtime victory in Buffalo on Tuesday. Perhaps playing the first of a season-long seven-game homestand can help Tampa Bay get off to a quicker start. "We don't want to play with fire every single game," coach Jon Cooper said. "But they showed some resiliency and came back in two tough buildings and got us four points." Tampa Bay's last contest was seemingly put out of reach by the Sabres early in the third period, but a high-sticking penalty negated a goal by Thomas Vanek. Teddy Purcell tied the game on the ensuing advantage, and Alex Killorn scored the winner in the extra period. "That was a big turn of events," Cooper said. "The way it played out, that was a big momentum shift for us." Meanwhile, the Panthers (1-2-0) are looking to earn a split of their four-game road trip. To do so, they'll likely need to break through on the power play, where they're scoreless despite 16 chances. Tampa Bay has yielded three goals on 12 penalty kills. Florida squandered five advantages in a 2-1 loss at Philadelphia on Tuesday with Flyers goaltender Steve Mason stopping 33 shots. Brad Boyes accounted for the team's lone goal. "He just had an answer for all of our shots," said Shawn Matthias, who was denied on a second-period breakaway. "We have to get giddier and work on it." Goaltender Tim Thomas left in the first period due to a pulled groin and didn't return, though coach Kevin Dineen said the injury didn't appear serious. He was replaced by Jacob Markstrom, who stopped all 25 shots he faced. Thomas owns a .923 save percentage in 18 games against the Lightning, including 16 starts. Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis is one point away from sole possession of 94th place on the league's all-time scoring list. His 915 points are tied with Bobby Orr. St. Louis has 34 points over his last 26 games versus Florida. Purcell owns six assists and one goal in his last four against the Panthers. Tampa Bay had won seven straight in the series before dropping the last two meetings, both at home. The Lightning haven't lost three in a row at home to the Panthers since a five-game home slide from Nov. 27, 1998-March 10, 2000.
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