Panthers 6, Lightning 2
SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) _ After a 56-game goal-scoring draught, Kirk Muller scored twice and added an assist to lead the Florida Panthers to a 6-2 victory over the Tampa Bay Lighting on Saturday night in the season finale for both teams.
Muller scored in the first and second periods to help the Panthers take a 3-0 lead.
Finnish rookie Paul Mara and Rob Zamuner scored power-play goals 1:28 apart to cut Florida’s lead to 3-2 at 4:40 of the third, but Ray Whitney scored two goals to secure Florida’s first three-game winning streak of the season.
Scott Mellanby had three assists and Bret Hedican added a goal and an assist to help the Panthers conclude a 5-0 sweep over their state rival.
Peter Worrell and Muller scored goals 1:41 apart in the first period. For Muller, who has scored 20-or-more goals nine times, it was just his third goal of the season and first since Dec. 9.
Muller scored his fourth goal of the season at 16:00 of the second period with a wrist shot.
Mara, 19, playing in his first NHL game, scored on a slap shot from just inside the blue line. Zamuner’s deflection then made it 3-2 at 4:40.
However, at 6:01 Whitney took a behind-the-net feed from Radek Dvorak and nudged it past Corey Schwab. At 11:25 Whitney scored his team-leading 26th goal for a 5-2 lead. Hedican finished up the scoring at 14:33.
The Lightning (19-54-9) finished last in points for the second consecutive season and their 179 goals were also a league-low. Tampa concluded its third straight season with 47 or fewer points and out of the playoffs.
Although Florida (30-34-18) finished with 78 points for a 15-point improvement over last season, the Panthers missed the playoffs for the second straight season.
Kirk McLean, winning his third straight game since replacing injured starter Sean Burke, had 27 saves.