Florida Panthers earn key victory over rival Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-3

Apr 17, 2021; Tampa, Florida, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning center Blake Coleman (20) skates with the puck against the Florida Panthers during the first period at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Frank Vatrano tallied his team-leading sixth game-winning goal as the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning and league top goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy 5-3 on Saturday night in St. Petersburg, Fla.

Vatrano raced in and beat Vasilevskiy — the NHL’s leader with 26 wins — with a backhander in the second period as the Lightning netminder ultimately suffered a loss on home ice for the first time in 15 games.

Aleksander Barkov tallied his team-leading 19th goal, Brandon Montour scored his first with his new team and Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Duclair notched goals.

Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 28 of 31 shots as Florida finished its road trip with a 2-3-1 mark following a six-game winning streak.

Making his Panthers debut after Monday’s trade with Calgary, Sam Bennett provided two assists while centering the second line between Huberdeau and Duclair.

Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point, Erik Cernak and Mathieu Joseph scored goals. Victor Hedman’s two assists pushed him past 400 for his career with the Lightning, who are 16-5-0 at home.

Vasilevskiy (26-7-1) made 27 saves on 31 shots.

Playing his third game with the Lightning, former Columbus defenseman David Savard skated in his 600th NHL game.

After Duclair drove the puck into the offensive end in the first period, Bennett dished a pass back to Montour, who fired a long shot that hit Cernak and went in for his sixth goal at 8:41.

Bennett and Montour — the latter acquired from Buffalo — recorded their first points for Florida with the helpers.

On the Panthers’ first power play, Barkov fired his own rebound into traffic and rattled it in at 12:31, but Point scored his Lightning-leading 18th just 69 seconds later to trim the deficit to 2-1.

However, Huberdeau gave Florida momentum when he banged home a rebound with only eight seconds left as the visitors headed to the dressing room with a 3-1 edge.

In the second, Vatrano scored his 15th at 17:34, but Cernak slashed it to 4-2 with a blast with 45 seconds remaining in the frame.

Early in the third, Joseph redirected in his 11th at 1:53, but Bobrovsky stopped Point’s backhander on a breakaway with just over four minutes remaining to keep the game at 4-3.

With Tampa Bay’s net empty, Duclair iced the win by slicing through and outracing the defense for an empty-netter in the last minute to move Florida to 3-2-1 against the Lightning.

–Field Level Media