RECAP: Tampa Bay Lightning top Florida Panthers in battle of Central titans

Mar 21, 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

Tampa Bay’s Yanni Gourde scored for the third straight game and assisted on Tyler Johnson’s go-ahead goal in the third period, and the Lightning won 5-3 over the visiting Florida Panthers on Sunday.

On its fourth man advantage, Johnson chipped in a pass from Gourde on a quick rush at 10:56 for the game-winning tally.

Brayden Point added an empty-net goal to go along with an earlier helper as Florida played the last two minutes with its net empty for the extra skater.

Alex Killorn and Mathieu Joseph netted goals, and backup goalie Curtis McElhinney allowed three markers on 32 shots.

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The Central Division-leading Lightning improved to 13-2-1 in the last 15 games, put four points between them and second-place Florida and bumped the NHL’s best home record up to 13-2-0.

The Panthers received goals from Carter Verhaeghe, Gustav Forsling and Patric Hornqvist, and Aleksander Barkov provided two assists. Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 19 of 23 shots.

The feisty contest marked the first instance in five years the in-state rivals met as the top pair in a division, and they traded goals 32 seconds apart in the first four minutes to open their fourth meeting.

A member of the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-winning club last season, Verhaeghe took a nice dish from Barkov and flipped home a backhander from the slot for his 12th tally, but Gourde soon answered with his 11th on a rebound of Barclay Goodrow’s shot.

On the Lightning’s third power play, McElhinney kept it 1-1 by denying Alex Wennberg’s short-handed attempt on a three-on-one rush at 6:07 of the second period.

Five minutes after the save, the home side took its first lead at 11:23 after a puck deflected off to the side of Bobrovsky’s cage and went right to Killorn in the bottom of the right circle.

After a long shift in the Lightning zone, Frank Vatrano worked in a goal with a one-handed putback, but it was disallowed after the Lightning challenged that the play was offside.

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Undeterred, the Panthers knotted the contest at 2 when Forsling tallied on the tail-end of their third power play at 18:24 with a left-handed blast from up top.

In the third period, Joseph gave Tampa Bay its second lead at 5:22 after putting in his own rebound for his eighth marker, but Hornqvist evened it again with his 12th when he deflected in Keith Yandle’s shot 63 seconds later.

–Field Level Media