<
>

Lecavalier powers Bolts to win over Panthers

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Vincent Lecavalier picked a good time to pull
out of a scoring slump.

The Tampa Bay star had two goals and as assist, and Sean Burke
stopped 29 shots in his first start since returning from a broken
finger, leading the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning to a
4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Monday night.

Lecavalier ended a stretch of six consecutive games without a
goal, bolstering the Lightning's push for a playoff spot.

"It's good to boost your confidence a little bit. The net was
getting really small," Lecavalier said. "But the most important
thing, we got that win."

The victory lifted the Lightning into a tie with idle Montreal
for seventh place in the Eastern Conference and also put a crimp in
Florida's chances of sneaking into the eighth -- and final -- playoff
position.

The Panthers, who won 11 of 13 to climb into the race, trail the
Lightning and Canadiens by eight points with seven games remaining.
Tampa Bay (85 points) also bolstered its advantage over ninth-place
Atlanta, which had 78 points -- one ahead of Florida and Toronto --
following its loss at Ottawa.

"This is a sprint right now. That's the way we're approaching
it," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "By no means are we
set. Too many crazy things happen as far as this race is
concerned."

The Panthers won five of six previous meetings with the
Lightning, including a pair of overtime victories and a 4-2 win at
home on Saturday. This time, they fell behind 2-0 in the first
period and never fully recovered.

Fredrik Modin's 30th goal got the Lightning off to a quick
start, and Lecavalier added his 33rd on a nifty move around goalie
Roberto Luongo for a two-goal lead that Burke was able to protect
in his first start since March 13.

The 39-year-old goalie was sidelined for more than two weeks
with a broken finger. He returned in relief of John Grahame during
the second period of Saturday night's loss to the Panthers and
stopped all nine shots he faced.

"There was definitely a focus on what we needed to do for the
obvious reasons," Burke said. "I think if we lose this game, we
all realize that we put ourselves in a bad spot for the rest of the
way."

The Panthers trimmed their deficit to 2-1 on Nathan Horton's
goal with 4:34 remaining in the second and nearly tied it when
Jonathan Sim's shot deflected off Burke's pad into the net just
after time expired in the period.

Lecavalier put the game away in the third, scoring his 34th goal
to set a career high on a rebound shot that deflected off Florida's
Lucas Krajicek before skipping into the net with 4:23 left. He
added an assist on Ruslan Fedotenko's empty-net goal that made it
4-1.

Luongo, who finished with 26 saves, said Tampa Bay's strong
start was the difference. Although both teams wound up taking 30
shots, the Lightning held a 14-5 advantage in the opening period.

"They came out strong in the first and pretty much sealed the
game right there," Luongo said. "They're not the Stanley Cup
champions for nothing. They know how to play, especially with the
lead."

Game notes
Tampa Bay's Brad Richards had an assist on Modin's goal,
extending his point streak to a franchise-record nine games. Martin
St. Louis had an eight-game streak earlier this season. ...
Panthers C Jozef Stumpel has missed three games with a left hip
injury. ... Lightning D Pavel Kubina missed his third consecutive
game with a lower body injury. ... Lightning D Dan Boyle (ankle)
returned after missing three games. ... With 30 goals, Modin is two
shy of his career high.