TAMPA, Fla. — The Florida Panthers control their own destiny for a division title.
Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an assist, Roberto Luongo made 33 saves and the Panthers took over first place in the Atlantic Division by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Saturday night.
“Now we’re in first place,” Jagr said. “Let’s go home and prove we are a first-place team.”
Florida starts a three-game homestand Tuesday night against Toronto. All seven of the Panthers’ final games are against teams not expected to make the playoffs.
Vincent Trocheck, Jiri Hudler, Jonathan Huberdeau and Jussi Jokinen also scored for the Panthers, who have a two-point lead over the Lightning. Florida won four of five in the season series with Tampa Bay.
Tampa Bay got goals from Tyler Johnson and Steven Stamkos.
“We had some pretty good chances,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “Give their goalie credit. Made a bunch of saves, and some of them were point-blankers. He kept them alive and gradually they wore us down a little it.”
The Lightning were without right wing Nikita Kucherov, who took a shot off his foot in a 7-4 win over the New York Islanders on Friday night. Right wing Ryan Callahan, defenceman Anton Stralman and centre Valtteri Filppula also sat for Tampa Bay with injuries.
“I thought we played very well but they played back to back and they’re missing some guys,” Jagr said. “I’m glad we won, but it would probably be tougher if they had those guys.”
Stralman, a top-level defender, fractured his left fibula in Friday’s game and is out indefinitely.
“He’s such a huge part of our club,” Tampa Bay centre Brian Boyle said. “The way he plays, the way he is here inside the (locker) room. It’s a loss, we understand that, but we can’t dwell on it. Everybody needs to work to get better, support one another.”
The Panthers’ 28th-ranked road power play converted its first opportunity when Jagr beat Andrei Vasilevskiy from the right circle for a 2-1 lead with 1:58 left in the first.
Jagr’s goal was his 25th this season and 747th overall, which is the third most in NHL history. Gordie Howe is second with 801.
Florida went up 3-1 at 15:53 of the second when Alex Petrovic’s shot hit Hudler and then went off Tampa Bay defenceman Victor Hedman.
Luongo made strong in-close saves on Cedric Paquette and Mike Blunden during the second.
“It was a big game for our club,” Luongo said. “Playoff-type match.”
Huberdeau made it 4-1 at 4:02 of the third.
Stamkos got his 36th goal on the power play with 3:12 to play before Jokinen added a short-handed empty-netter.
Less than a minute after Johnson was denied on a re-direction by Luongo, Trocheck got the Panthers even at 1 and extended his goal-scoring streak to four straight games at 13:36 of the first.
Johnson opened the scoring 5:52 into the game on Tampa Bay’s first power play against Florida, which has the NHL’s second-best road penalty-killing unit.
Florida went 1 for 4 on the power play, while Tampa Bay scored twice on five chances.
NOTES: Jagr has reached 25 goals in a season 18 times. … Jagr has 35 goals and 82 points in 76 games against Tampa Bay. … Tampa Bay recalled D Slater Koekkoek and RW Joel Vermin from the Syracuse of the AHL. … Stamkos (eight) and Johnson (seven) combined for 15 shots. … Lightning D Nikita Nesterov had two assists after 14 consecutive games without a point.