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Panthers Strike Lightning 2-0

MIAMI (AP) Tampa Bay goaltender Mark Fitzpatrick was looking for revenge against his former Florida Panther teammates.

Instead, he suffered a 2-0 loss Saturday to extend his record with the Lightning to 0-6-0 while stretching Tampa Bay's franchise-long losing streak to 12 straight.

"This hockey club is desperate for a win," said Fitzpatrick, who after allowing two goals in the first 5:15 was sharp as he deprived Tom Fitzgerald of a penalty shot in the second period. "It would've been extra special to come back here and have a big win against the Panthers, but it didn't work out."

Fitzpatrick's former teammate John Vanbiesbrouck gained his second shutout in three games. Fitzpatrick had played behind Vanbiesbrouck for four years before his trade to Tampa Bay on Jan. 16.

"I thought the last two periods we played better than they did, but obviously Vanbiesbrouck is as good as he is," said Tampa coach Jacques Demers, who could only dress 19 players because of illness. "Florida just beat Dallas and came out strong, scoring those quick goals."

Vanbiesbrouck stopped 27 shots for the 28th shutout of his career to lead the suddenly home-friendly Panthers to their third straight win at Miami Arena. The Panthers are 4-0-2 in their last six at home.

"Mark made a nice save (on the penalty shot) to spur them on in the second period," Vanbiesbrouck said.

The Panthers wasted little time in taking the lead as Dave Gagner drew two defensemen to him and set up a wide-open Kirk Muller in front for a goal 18 seconds into the game for his fifth.

"We gave the fans a real reason to be excited early on and we kind of discouraged them right off the bat," said Panthers coach Bryan Murray.

Florida made it 2-0 at 5:15 of the first on a bizarre goal. Tom Fitzgerald was shoved from behind by David Wilkie and slid into the net. The loose puck was poked in by Robert Svuhla as Fitzgerald was escaping.

Despite a vehement protest by Fitzpatrick, the goal was allowed even though Fitzgerald was in the crease because he was pushed in.

Fitzpatrick later viciously slashed Dino Ciccarelli, who was involved in the same four-man deal, to give the Panthers a two-man advantage they didn't score on.

"I'm going to use my stick if it prevents them from scoring," Fitzpatrick said.

Ciccarelli, who was unable to score his 600th goal against his ex-mates, took the slash in stride.

"He's uptight a little bit," Ciccarelli said. "He's a competitor like me and came in here trying to help his team win a big game. He hasn't won yet and anytime you're traded you want to come back and beat your old team."

In the second period, Fitzgerald was awarded a penalty shot at 3:50 when Stephane Richer took him down on a breakaway. But Fitzgerald missed, giving the Panthers an 0-for-4 record on penalty-shot attempts in their history.

Tampa Bay, which was outshot 26-7 at one point before a late barrage brouht it to a more respectable 33-27, hasn't scored more than two goals in its past seven games, dating back to a 6-3 loss to Montreal on Jan. 12. The Lightning haven't won in 1998 (0-12-1), with the lone tie coming against Florida on Jan. 2.

Vanbiesbrouck robbed Alex Selivanov and Wilkie on point-blank shots in the second period, and stopped Daymond Langkow midway through the third.

"Vanbiesbrouck was the difference," Demers said.

Murray recorded his 478th career victory to tie Mike Keenan for sixth place on the all-time list.

©1998 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed

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