Tampa Bay is flying high. Top of the league standings, just 8 total losses. This team looks like real contenders. They have a tough customer with the Florida Panthers a team that has taken the league by suprise this season and sit just 4 points below The Lightning in the standings. An Instate rivals playoff series could be a possibility with how well the two Florida teams have been playing. They’ve never met in the post season but judging by Their play this season that could be the playoff series of the season. But before the chase for the cup begins we have the Fourth edition of the sunshine state showdown in Tampa Bay.
Both teams came out of the gate with a very fast pace putting Sergei Bobrovski and Curtis McElhinney to the test early. Carter Verhaeghe loves to score on his former team, scoring the first goal of the game to give the Panthers the first lead of the game. Alexander Barkov made a beautiful move and pass after creating a turnover in the Tampa defensive zone. Barkov would get the primary assist and was dominant all game. Yanni Gourde didn’t seem to like trailing so it took him all of 32 seconds to answer the Panthers goal with one of his own to tie the game. Bobrovsky and McElhinney played marvelously through the period stoping the remaining shots to keep the score tied at one going into the second period.
Continuing the bad trend from the first period the Lightning were playing carelessly in their own zone giving up plenty of scoring chances off fundamental defensive zone mistakes. Blake Coleman in particular made a number of errors and seemed to be struggling with decision making. Ryan McDonagh was injured in the first period and would not return with what the team is calling a “lower body injury”. Alex Killorn would break the ice in the middle frame getting a gift of a bounce he slammed past Bobrovsky to give the Lightning the lead. Erik Cernak made a brilliant individual effort to set up the gift of a bounce to killorn. Frank Vatrano scored just moments later to tie the game. But after a crafty challenge for offsides by the Lightning the goal was called back, keep the Bolts lead intact. But that would not last long as Gustav Forsling scored his 2nd goal of the season on the powerplay to tie the game at 2. Goaltending was excellent again throughout the period. Going into the final period, the game tied at 2 apiece, it’s anyone’s game.
2019 Allstar Anthony Duclair had a close chance on a break early in the third but was determined after review to have not completely crossed the goal line once again keeping the score tied. Mathieu Joseph put the Bolts ahead with under 15 minutes left in regulation. A massive goal to give the Lightning some momentum to close out the game. Just 3 seconds later Tampa was called for a penalty and headed to the penalty kill. Patric Hornquist tipped a shot past McElhinney to once Again promptly cut a lead. The Bolts had one more trick up their sleeve. Yanni Gourde who had an excellent game put a perfect center feed right to the blade of Tyler Johnson who gave the Bolts the lead once again. The high pace affair ended with Brayden Point sealing the deal with an empty netter propelling The Lightning to a 5-3 victory on home ice.
The Lightning look unstoppable right now. Scoring, goaltending, and the most important full team effort makes this team special. This team is the best team not named the Pittsburgh Penguins to Win back to back Stanley Cups this century and continue the legend of Champa Bay.