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Associated Press
11/22/2006 10:21:25 PM


SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) - After letting a lead slip away, the Tampa Bay Lightning got the strong finish they needed to beat the Florida Panthers.

Ryan Craig and Brad Richards each scored two goals and Johan Holmqvist made 31 saves in the Lightning's 6-4 victory over the Panthers on Wednesday night.

Eric Perrin and Dan Boyle also scored for the Lightning.

Ville Peltonen, Gary Roberts, Ruslan Salei and Olli Jokinen had goals for Florida and Alex Auld stopped 29 shots.

Behind 3-2, Tampa Bay scored four third-period goals.

''Give the team high marks,'' Lightning coach John Tortorella said. ''They battled through that and it could have gone the other way, so it's good stuff.''

Craig made it 5-3 when his shot from in front hit Auld and trickled over the goal line at 12:12. Boyle's shot from the lower left circle went between Auld's pads at 7:14 to put Tampa Bay ahead 4-3.

''We never let the game get away from us at any point tonight,'' Craig said. ''We felt in control, kept our composure and never wavered from our game plan.''

Jokinen closed the gap to 5-4 at 16:44 when his shot from below the left circle went between Holmqvist's legs. Richards had an empty-net goal at 19:47.

''We probably played a little more desperate,'' Richards said. ''We needed a win. We knew we could take it to these guys like we did in the first period but we knew it wouldn't be easy. They had a surge there in the second.''

Tampa Bay tied it 3-3 on Craig's first goal at 3:05 of the third.

''I really don't know what happened in the third period,'' Jokinen said. ''Too many ups and downs during the game.''

Trailing 2-0, Florida scored three goals in the second period.

They made it 2-1 on Peltonen's power-play goal at 12:21 of the second. His shot from the right circle went just inside the post on Holmqvist's glove side.

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Tampa seems to play better in front of Holmqvist which is a good thing and bad thing. The good thing is we know the back up goalie is reliable and they trust him. The bad thing we traded a 30+ goal scorer in Freddy Modin and a goalie prospect for Denis and he hasn't done that good.
Something needs to be done about Denis this team could be so much better then .500 if Denis played well and they knew they had a reliable back up goalie when needed. And players wouldn't have to worry about being traded just yet.
But a nice win, Tampa really needed it like Richards said.
 
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