Florida Panthers

Jaromir Jagr leads way as Panthers edge Lightning

Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr (68) celebrates after getting an assist on Sasha Barkov’s goal in the second period against the Lightning. The Panthers had scored 11 goals in nine games before Jagr’s arrival; they have scored nine goals over two games since joined the team.
Panthers forward Jaromir Jagr (68) celebrates after getting an assist on Sasha Barkov’s goal in the second period against the Lightning. The Panthers had scored 11 goals in nine games before Jagr’s arrival; they have scored nine goals over two games since joined the team. AP

The Panthers appear to have found their offense.

It couldn’t have come at a better time.

On Sunday, Florida newcomer Jaromir Jagr led a balanced attack as the Panthers scored three unanswered goals then held on for dear life to beat Tampa Bay 4-3 at BB&T Center.

The Panthers hadn’t beaten the Lightning in Sunrise since their 2011-12 season opener.

That victory kicked off Florida’s previous playoff season; the Panthers hope Sunday’s victory over Tampa Bay leads to another postseason berth.

Florida is back to being two points out of the final playoff spot.

“This could really be one of those games you look back on,’’ defenseman Brian Campbell said.

“They play very well and we knew that. We know the level we have to play at to be consistent and to be good. We have Toronto and Dallas coming up. We need to keep piling them up. We have 19 games left. We know how many wins, how many points we need to get into the playoffs. We need to keep climbing.’’

Before Jagr arrived in South Florida, the Panthers offense had slowed to a crawl, scoring just 11 goals in the previous nine games.

Since Jagr popped into the lineup Saturday against Buffalo, the Panthers have nine goals.

Coincidence?

Probably not.

Sunday, Jagr scored Florida’s first goal after being fed in the slot by Jonathan Huberdeau and beating Ben Bishop top shelf.

In the second, tied at 1, Jagr fired a hard shot at Bishop with the puck lingering dangerously around the goal line. Sasha Barkov cleaned it up, and Florida had a lead it would not relinquish.

Jagr hadn’t scored a goal in 10 games before Sunday.

“It’s only been two games, but it’s a big two games and we’re back in the race,’’ said Jagr, who received the West Point victory jacket after tying Hall of Famer Phil Esposito for fifth all-time on the NHL goals list with 717.

“I came here to try to help this team get into the playoffs and these games are like the playoffs. We have 19 games left, it’s exciting.’’

Up 2-1, the Panthers kept coming at the Lightning and went into the second intermission up two when Brad Boyes scored a wacky goal by throwing a shot at Bishop from behind the goal cage.

In the third, Florida made it 4-1 on a power-play blast from rookie Aaron Ekblad.

Tampa Bay, the NHL’s highest-scoring team, didn’t sit back and made it a game as Steven Stamkos scored midway through the third before Tyler Johnson made it a one-goal game with 2:44 left.

Backup goalie Al Montoya and Florida’s defense stood up, however, and kept the Lightning at bay. The Panthers, who had lost four in a row, have victories in consecutive days for the first time this season.

“The guys are going hard to the net,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “We played a real good game against a real good team. They put the press on us late and got some goals. We held on, found a way to get two big points.’’

TRADE DAY

After already trading away Sean Bergenheim and Tomas Fleischmann, the Panthers aren’t expected to be too busy before Monday’s 3 p.m. trade deadline.

Tomas Kopecky and Scottie Upshall are being shopped by the Panthers but could remain after the deadline.

Kopecky was in the lineup Sunday after being scratched in the previous three games. Upshall scored the game-winner in Saturday’s 5-3 win over the Sabres.

Both players will be free agents on July 1.

“Those are all just rumors, I just want to focus on my shifts,’’ said Kopecky, who like Upshall served as an assistant captain Sunday.

“I can control what I can control, and that’s my work ethic.’’

▪ Boyes scored his 200th career goal Sunday. He had gone 17 games between goals.

“It’s been a while since I’ve chipped in,’’ Boyes said. “It was nice. We need goals.’’

▪ Campbell played in his 900th NHL game in Saturday’s win over the Sabres — the team that drafted him and with which he spent eight seasons.

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