The Sunshine State Showdown between The Florida Panthers and The Tampa Bay Lightning at BB&T center in Sunrise. Shortly before Puck drop it was announced Captain Steven Stamkos would be out with a day to day injury. One has to wonder if this could be a continuation of the hard hit he took in the last game. He did finish the game but looked to be in discomfort. The Bolts will attempt to rally around their injured captain and chase the cats off their ice with their tails between their legs.
Frank Vatrano broke through for the Panthers giving them a one goal lead at 8:56 of the 1st period. A goal mouth scramble that left Vasilevskiy without his stick . Vatrano put right through the 5 hole. The two teams combined for fewer than 15 shots in the period. Both goalies held their end down for the first 20 minutes. Barclay Goodrow dropped the gloves with Ryan Lomberg and then got Rocked with a one punch that sent him to the locker room.
The Second period was a disaster for The Lightning. Alex Weenberg scored an impressive lay up goal on a 2-1 at the 8:31 mark. The Panthers lead 2-0 for the moment. If you take penalties The Bolts WILL make you pay for it. Even without Stamkos and Kucherov, the powerplay is lethal. Brayden Point walked through the Panthers PK and cut the lead in half capitalizing on a costly too many men on the ice penalty. The Momentum swing was halted almost as soon as it started. The Panthers squashed the turn around with Power-play of their own . Aaron Ekblad scored 1:59 after Point had given some life to the Bolts. Later former Lightning forward Carter Verhaeghe who has been red hot made his former team pay scoring his 7th goal of the season at the 14:55 mark. Tampa now trailed on a demoralizing 4-1 score at the end of the middle frame. Despite the score Andrei Vasilevskiy kept the game from being a slaughter. Doing his best to make as many big stops as he could. Simply put The Panthers were outplaying the Lightning in every aspect of the game. Major adjustments would need to be made heading into the last period.
Brayden Point scored just 54 seconds into the 3rd period. Point’s second powerplay goal of the night came with one second remaining on the powerplay, carrying over from late in the second period. Tampa definitely seemed to settle in. The 3rd period looked like the only period were the play was remotely even. Vasilevskiy continued to keep the team afloat. With the net empty the Bolts were running out of time to overcome a 2 goal deficit. After trying to hit the empty net and Icing the puck, another former Bolt Brett Connolly took his time burying the empty netter just past the red line. Game over with a final of 5-2
Outplayed. Injured. Awful officiating. A new opponent this season with a number of Lightning alumi on the team. any of these reasons could be partially to blame for the loss. Even in a shortened season, you can’t win them all. Tampa Bay was already short handed with injuries, The Panthers were the better team in every way. An off night is nothing to panic over. However basic parts of the game like winning face offs, not taking bad penalties, and finishing the play need improvement. The six game winning streak comes to a close. The Panthers have only lost one game in regulation and leapfrog the Lightning for first place in the division. The Neighbors are back at it on Saturday at BB&T center. The Bolts will regroup and try to take back their claim on first in the division.