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Florida Panthers Battle, Come Up Short Against Lightning

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Sam Reinhart scored twice Saturday — but Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy stops him during the third period in one of his 47 saves in a 5-3 win. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee)

SUNRISE — For the third straight game, the Florida Panthers found themselves down three goals in the second period.

On Tuesday, they rallied to beat the Stars.

Thursday, Carolina shut them out.

Saturday, the Panthers did everything they could to come back against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Andrei Vasilevskiy would not let them.

The Panthers ended up throwing all they had at Vasilevskiy and the Lightning, cutting a four-goal lead to one late in the third — only it was not enough.

The hole was just too big as Tampa Bay got a much-needed 5-3 win.

“That’s a really good team over there,’’ said Steven Stamkos, who scored twice in a four-point night.

“Vasilevskiy was great and we capitalized on our chances. We needed those points.’’

In the final two periods, Florida outshot the Lightning 38-5 but Vasilevskiy proved too much.

Again.

“You have to try and replicate it, just do it from the start,’’ said Matthew Tkachuk, who scored his first shorthanded goal of his career in the second to get things started for Florida.

“They are a really good team over there, but we know we can definitely hang with them. When we take over like that. it should give us a lot of confidence that we can do that to every team.”

Florida was down 1-0 just 20 seconds into the game after Steven Stamkos scored his first of two.

His cross-ice pass, which was headed for Brandon Hagel, nicked Brandon Montour and skipped past Sergei Bobrovsky.

Tampa Bay was not done.

Down 3-0 early in the second for the third time since Dallas on Tuesday, Florida appeared to break through on a shot from Josh Mahura. 

After the dust settled following a big fight caused by Dmitry Kulikov popping Conor Sheary high, the officials gathered, and Kulikov was out of the game.

Mahura’s goal was off the board as well.

Paul Maurice was perplexed, as was Mahura and the rest of the Panthers.

“I don’t know what happened there,’’ Mahura said, “and it was unfortunate we did not get that one.”

Tampa Bay got its second goal from Stamkos not long after to make it 4-0.

That, at least, woke up the Panthers.

Tkachuk scored on a shorthanded chance off a 3-on-1 break at 8:23 of the second.

Sam Reinhart made it 4-2 off a power-play chance.

Florida had the momentum, but, it turned out not to be enough.

As was the case in Carolina two nights prior.

“We’ve kind of dug ourselves a hole these last couple, but our game is there,’’ Reinhart said. “There are some things to tighten up early.’’

The Panthers did not make it 4-3 until Reinhart got his second with 3:52 remaining.

Florida pulled Sergei Bobrovsky — only to watch Nikita Kucherov end it.

The Panthers outshot Tampa Bay 50-16, with Vasilevskiy being the hero.

Last month, Florida scored six on him in a 9-2 win in Tampa.

Now, the Panthers have a couple much-needed days off.

“We’re back to work Monday,’’ Maurice said. “We will get two solid skates in, and we haven’t had that, and won’t again. It will probably be the last two meaningful practices we will have, in some ways, of the year. And then we still have some work to do.”

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ON DECK

NASHVILLE PREDATORS @ FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Nashville: Panthers 4, Predators 1 (Jan. 22). At Florida: Thursday.
  • Last Season: Nashville won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 22-14-6, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday, March 23 at New York Rangers, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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