Lightning trail Caps by only one point after win


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Florida goalie Roberto Luongo almost stole
away some valuable points from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and an assist as the Lightning
beat the Panthers 3-1 Thursday night. But Luongo made 36 saves,
including 22 on quality scoring chances. The Panthers had nine such chances.

"Chances were lopsided, but it was a close game,'' Lightning
coach John Tortorella said. "We created a lot of scoring chances,
but couldn't finish.''

The Lightning trail Southeast Division-leading Washington by one

Nikolai Khabibulin made 35 saves for the Lightning, who matched
their point total (69) from all of last season. He made a tough
in-close save on Matt Cullen with 6:46 to play.

Lecavalier put Tampa Bay ahead 2-1 late in the second period.
Brad Richards also scored a power-play goal for Tampa Bay. Vaclav Prospal added an empty-net goal with 48.2 seconds left.

The Lightning now go on the road for games at Ottawa, the New
York Islanders and Detroit.

"It's not about getting two points before going on the road,''
Lecavalier said. "It's about getting two points. The next game, we
have to be ready to get two points again.''

Jaroslav Bednar scored the Florida goal.

The Lightning outshot Florida 17-8 in the first period and took
a 1-0 lead on Richards' power-play goal.

"We were just trying to get ourselves in the game,'' Luongo
said. "It just didn't happen for us tonight.''

Richards' goal came one second after a five-on-three power play
ended. Marcus Nilson received a high-sticking penalty at 12:29 and
Andreas Lilja was sent for slashing at 13:03.

"In the old NHL, there's no way that either of those penalties
would have been called,'' Florida coach Mike Keenan said. "Nilson
didn't high-stick him. I watched the video. He pushed him.

"And (Lilja) broke his stick on the guy's shin pads. In the old
NHL, that doesn't (get called) to put a team down 5-on-3 in a game
like this. That doesn't fly, but these are the new rules in the

The Lightning's first-period lead could have easily been three
or four goals without the play of Luongo. He made a sliding save on
Richards and stopped Lecavalier's low shot from the slot early on
as the Lightning had the game's first six shots.

"I was just scared it was going to come back and haunt us,''
Richards said. "It was one of those games when you think he's
going to stand on his head and they're going to come down, get a
lucky one to tie it 2-2. It happens so much in hockey.''

Tampa Bay also controlled the play for most of the opening half
of the second period. Luongo got his stick on a shot by Martin St.
Louis during a breakaway at 1:02. The puck came to rest on the goal
line and officials ruled it didn't cross.

TV replays confirmed there was no goal.

Florida tied it at 1 when Bednar scored midway through the

"We're not generating offense enough to make the game easy for
us,'' Keenan said.

Game notes
Richards had nine shots. ... The result of tests to
determine if Florida's Kyle Rossiter has a concussion were not yet
availble. He was hurt in Wednesday's game against Anaheim. ...
Tampa Bay is 9-2-1-2 against Florida since the start of the 2000-01
season. ... Lightning RW Ruslan Fedotenko missed his second
straight game with a broken finger. He is day-to-day. ... The
Panthers are 12-10-5-4 on the road, compared to 7-14-7-5 at home.