SUNRISE, Fla. — Nikita Kucherov ended a 10-game goal drought, and the Tampa Bay Lightning completed a season series sweep of the Florida Panthers in a 5-2 win at BB&T Center on Sunday.
Roberto Luongo passed Patrick Roy into second place on the NHL’s all-time list for games played by a goalie (1,030); Luongo allowed two goals on 11 shots in the third period after relieving James Reimer, who made nine saves.
“I don’t really feel like talking about it that much right now,” Luongo said. “All I care about is winning games and trying to get in the playoffs. Milestones are for another day. Just disappointed with the loss tonight.”
Kucherov, who hadn’t scored since Jan. 12, had two goals and an assist, and Steven Stamkos, Ryan Callahan and Brayden Point also scored for Tampa Bay (41-11-4), which won all four games against Florida this season. Louis Domingue made 25 saves to set a Lightning record with his 10th consecutive victory, and Anton Stralman had two assists.
“I mean, listen, you go through ups and downs in a season,” Stamkos said. “[Kucherov] is going to be [Kucherov]; he’s going to find a way. That’s why we have other guys on our team step up when you go through a little spurt like that. But it happens to the best of players. We weren’t too worried. This will really get him going again, I think.”
Frank Vatrano and Denis Malgin scored for Florida (23-23-8), which outshot the Lightning 17-3 in the second period.
“I don’t think the score reflects quite the game we played,” Panthers coach Bob Boughner said. “I didn’t like our first period. We were casual and it took us too long to get going. I really liked our pushback in the second and the shots were 17-3. We should have come out of there tied or at least 2-1. We didn’t get the saves we needed in the second period and then you’re trailing and when you open up on the third period against the best team in the League, that’s what happens.”
Kucherov ended his drought when he scored the only goal of the first period at 4:02 with a close-range shot from a sharp angle. He made it 5-2 at 19:12 of the third with a one-timer during a 5-on-3 man-advantage.
Stamkos gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead at 12:08 of the second period with a backhand redirect of Stralman’s centering pass.
Vatrano quick responded at 13:11 when he one-timed Jonathan Huberdeau‘s pass in the slot to make it 2-1.
Callahan scored on a breakaway at 17:51 of the second, four seconds after a Panthers power play expired, to give the Lightning a 3-1 lead.
Callahan was a healthy scratch in three straight games and six times since his previous goal (Jan. 12).
“Obviously it felt good,” he said. “I just tried to take the approach of working every day and making sure if I got the opportunity or when I got the opportunity I was ready to go and ready to contribute. I felt good tonight. If I get another opportunity the next game, then I have to do it again.”
Malgin made it 3-2 at 18:50 when his shot from the right circle deflected off the stick of Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.
Point’s power-play goal at 4:25 of the third period made it 4-2.
Tampa Bay, which came in with the top-ranked power play in the NHL, was 2-for-4 with the man-advantage after going 1-for-10 in the previous five games.
“We haven’t had too many in the last few games here,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We knew it was a matter of time.”
They said it
“The big thing for us was to keep the lead (in the second period). We only had the three shots. We ended up fortunately scoring on two of them. We were opportunistic in that sense but knew that if we played that way in the third, it may not work out for us. We changed our ways and it was good.” — Lightning coach Jon Cooper
“We know we were playing against one of the best teams in the League, if not the best, and we needed our best effort from everybody. They just wanted it more in the first period, in the first 10 minutes, and third period too.” — Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov
Need to know
Lightning forward Ondrej Palat missed the game because of an upper-body injury and is day to day. … Panthers forward Colton Sceviour (upper body) was placed on the injured list and is out indefinitely. … Tampa Bay became the third team in NHL history to have at least 20 wins at home and on the road in its first 56 games, joining the 2007-08 Detroit Red Wings and 2015-16 Washington Capitals.
Lightning: Host the Calgary Flames on Tuesday (7:30 p.m. ET; ESPN+, SUN, SNW, NHL.TV)
Panthers: Host the Dallas Stars on Tuesday (7 p.m. ET; FS-F, FS-SW, NHL.TV)