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Rivalry Renewed? Lightning beat Panthers in OT

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Lightning Panthers
The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning mix it up during a game earlier this season at BB&T Center in Sunrise. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

Aside from sharing the same southern state and being born a year apart, the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning don’t have a lot in common.

The two are rivals, sure, but nothing like some of the great in-state/province rivalries the NHL has been built on.

Perhaps this is the year that changes a bit.

It appears the rivalry between the Lightning and Panthers is starting to ramp up a little. Playing as many times as they will this season — not to mention what is at stake these days — will do that.

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Thursday was the fifth of (at least) eight meetings between the two this season and, with the two tied atop the Central Division with a dozen-plus games remaining, the game had a playoff feel to it.

In the end, it was Victor Hedman breaking in and beating Chris Driedger in overtime leading the Lightning to a 3-2 win at Amalie Arena.

”We know how important these points are, we’re battling for first place here,” Anthony Duclair said. “Anytime you’re playing the defending (Stanley Cup) champs, you want to have a good outcome. You want to play hard. We did a good job of playing hard tonight.”

With the two points, Tampa Bay and Carolina are tied with 60; Florida is one off the pace with 59.

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