TAMPA, Fla. — The Tampa Bay Lightning‘s best stretch this season has them looking like the defending Eastern Conference champions at last.
“When you start stringing a few together, all of a sudden confidence starts going,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “You win a few in a row, you think you can win every single game. The more we’ve won, that’s what that feeling has been on the bench.”
“We knew it was a big game,” Bishop said. “It’s definitely nice to beat these guys.”
Nick Bjugstad scored for the Panthers. Florida is 0-2-1 since ending a 12-game winning streak. Roberto Luongo made 29 saves and became the seventh goalie to play in 900 NHL games. Luongo is 15-15-2 against Tampa Bay.
“A disappointing loss but I thought overall it wasn’t that bad of a game,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said.
Kucherov opened the scoring 4:21 into the second on a shot from the right circle that beat Luongo glove side. He put the Lightning up 3-1 with an empty-netter.
“Gifted offensive player,” Cooper said of Kucherov, who has 18 goals this season.
A minute after Vladislav Namestnikov skated down the slot alone and sent his in-close shot over the net, Sustr made it 2-0 with 1:30 left in the second on a rebound backhander after Jason Garrison‘s deflected shot went off glass above the end boards.
Bjugstad cut the Panthers deficit to 2-1 when he scored on the rebound of his own shot at 8:06 of the third.
The Panthers went 0 for 5 on the power play and have the league’s worst road power-play percentage with five goals in 64 chances.
“When it’s not going good, it gives the other team momentum,” Gallant said.
Florida star Jaromir Jagr headed toward the locker room 7 minutes into the third but returned to play a couple minutes later. The right wing, who needs four goals to tie Brett Hull (741) for third-place on the NHL all-time list, had two tip-in tries miss the net during a third-period power play and ended up without a shot on a goal.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos had one shot in 14:55. Seven other Tampa Bay forwards had more playing time.
NOTES: Florida D Aaron Ekblad missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury but could return late this week. … Lightning C Brian Boyle, hurt blocking a shot Friday, sat out with a lower-body injury. … Kucherov has a five-game point streak. … Luongo is six away from tying Glenn Hall for sixth place on the NHL goalie games-played list.