And here, I thought the biggest trial for the Lightning would be simply solving Tomas Vokoun.
The Bolts came into tonight's match-up with the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center riding high. They had overcome two tough matchups in two hostile environments, having beaten the Montreal Canadiens and Philadelphia Flyers on Wednesday and Thursday.
But in the consistently inconsistent fashion akin to the 2009-10 season, the Bolts squared off against the Panthers in Sunrise on Saturday night and were pasted by the kitties. The final was a 6-0 drubbing.
Things started out in the fashion that fans may have grown used to from these early games: high octane, high speed, end-to-end, back and forth... But like you could notice when things weren't working for the Lightning -- passes into the offensive zone resembled dumps. Offensive efforts were disjointed and led to quick turn-arounds by the Panthers...
Cory Stillman opened scoring for the Cats and it went downhill for TB from there.
Honestly, the energy was there. That wasn't at issue. Nor was the need for heart... It was execution that... well, executed the Lightning. Mishaps, turnovers, horrible passes , horrible clears (I am looking at you, Pavel Kubina)... Dan Ellis got yanked after giving up 3 goals against in the first 15:31of the game. Mike Smith came in, and while the team seemed to get it's head back on -- well, he gave up three goals over the course of the rest of the contest.
It was a bad one, I don't know how else to say it.
Bright spots are the energy. Dominic Moore continues to impress on the third line. Everyone (fans, that is) cringed when Vincent Lecavalier left the ice with an injury to his hand/wrist during the game -- but he returned and played out the string until the very end.
There's a truth Lightning fans need to face here -- the Lightning had gotten lucky at times in both Montreal and Philadelphia. On the other hand, this is only the Bolts second loss under Guy Boucher (combining preseason contests and regular season play).
But besides that, you have every reason to turn up your nose at this game. The Lightning were outshot 38-29, with the majority of their shots (11) coming in the scoreless second period.
The next Lightning game is against the Dallas Stars at the St. Pete Times Forum... Hopefully it will be a more formidable, together group that shows up for that contest.
6-0 the final from BankAtlantic Center. The Lightning still have work to do...