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Panthers take bite out of Lightning, strengthen Atlantic lead

Roberto Luongo, Michael Blunden

Florida Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo (1) defends the goal from a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Michael Blunden (46) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 26, 2016, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Brian Blanco)


OK, we can probably officially call this a lousy weekend for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Sure, they salvaged a win from Friday’s game against the Islanders, but it cost them injuries to Nikita Kucherov and Anton Stralman, with Stralman’s fracture looking especially ominous.

Tonight was a bigger deal, and give them all the credit you want for fighting with less than a full deck, but the Florida Panthers earned a significant victory by a 5-2 margin.

The Panthers and Lightning were playing hot potato with the division lead, but at least for one night, it’s all Panthers. They now have 93 points while the Lightning have 91, and each club has seven games left in 2015-16.

To add a little extra sting, this is the last time these two teams meet in the regular season, so the Lightning might need a little help from other squads if they hope to win the Atlantic Division in the end.

While the Bolts lick their wounds, the Panthers can at least smile a bit, especially since Jaromir Jagr’s 25th goal of 2015-16 brings about another remarkable (if highly specific) milestone.

Elsewhere in the Atlantic, the Bruins were able to grind out a win against the Maple Leafs, improving their situation (whether they have any shot at the title or not).