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Game 64 recap: Tampa Bay Lightning flat in first, dominated in second, fall short in third in 4-3 loss to Florida Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning took on a new-look Florida Panthers forward group and fell flat on their faces, falling a 4-1 hole before making things interesting in the 3rd period of a 4-3 defeat at BB&T Center.

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

For whatever reason, the Tampa Bay Lightning periodically lay an egg, so to speak.

Sunday night in south Florida, they did just that.

Tampa Bay failed to convert on some early chances, got dominated in the second period, and failed to do much at all offensively until the Panthers had already built a 4-1 lead en route to a 4-3 defeat. The Panthers won their second game in as many days after beating the Buffalo Sabres on Saturday.

Both teams seemed to be feeling each other out a bit early; the first shot on goal didn't come until 16 minutes remaining in the first after a bad turnover by the Florida Panthers. Al Montoya made a nice stop on Nikita Kucherov as his line with Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson started to generate some offensive pressure early. The Lightning did a good job of hemming the Cats in and forcing turnovers on zone exits on their way to the games first five shots on goal.

It was the Panthers, however, with the game's first great scoring chances. First, on a redirect in the crease from Tomas Kopecky that was stopped by Ben Bishop and then a 2-on-1 that ended up with Jaromir Jagr the third man in to pot a loose puck in the slot off the rush and a 1-0 Florida lead. Brandon Pirri would follow that with another great chance on Ben Bishop that the Lightning netminder stopped to keep the deficit at one.

The Lightning answered moments later after some nifty stickhandling in the offensive zone, holding off a defender and finding Anton Stralman on the half-wall. Stralman floated a long puck into traffic where a screened Montoya failed to make a save, tying the game 1-1.

The Panthers came out in the second period with better play in their own zone, leading to some forays down in Tampa's end and eventually, a power play. After a few good looks towards Ben Bishop, Tyler Johnson jumped on a loose puck and broke away, earning a penalty shot shorthanded. Al Montoya made the save on a shot to the left from the right side.

Back at even strength, it was the new Jagr-Barkov-Huberdeau line getting it done for the Cats. A quick up after Tampa thought they had control led to the scramble defense, a loose puck in the slot and a goal for Florida to put them back up by a goal. They then built on that momentum, controlling play for most of the second period and limiting the Lightning to just four total shots on goal through about 25 minutes of hockey after the Bolts recorded the game's first five shots.

Brian Boyle gave the Lightning their best chance of hitting the scoresheet with a wide move to the front of the net that was stopped by Montoya, resulting in some rough stuff involving him, Brenden Morrow, Andrej Sustr and a few Panthers. Florida drew a power play out of that scrum and failed to convert. But a Brad Boyes goal from behind the goal line with Bishop cheating off his post just a bit made it 3-1.

Ultimately Florida won the second period handily and in every way possible, outshooting the Bolts 16-5 and creating a 3-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes.

Not much changed in the third, which began with the remainder of a power play. The Panthers stayed in control of the game, preventing Tampa Bay from doing much of anything and extending their lead to 4-1

Stamkos scores with 11:30 remaining to make it 4-2 and the Palat-Johnson-Kucherov line nearly made it 4-3; later, a Stamkos deflection hit the post and Al Montoya came up with a couple of outstanding saves on Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat to keep the Cats ahead by a pair with time winding down.

Tampa Bay made things really interesting with a late goal from Tyler Johnson off a nice feed from Nikita Kucherov following a poor decision by Al Montoya to play a puck rather than freeze it and let his tired defense change. But it was all for naught, as the Bolts failed to even the score and left the BB&T Center with zero points.

Game Notes
  • While the Lightning carried the better of play early, it was the Panthers with the game's first great chances and the game's first goal. But, as they have all season, the Lightning didn't change their gameplan or their method, quickly knotting things in the first period.
  • Jonathan Drouin's stickhandling has always been world-class, but he's starting to have more success in space for the Lightning, carrying the puck through the neutral zone and up high in the offensive zone to create chances for his linemates.
  • It's easy to pinpoint the failed shootout attempt by Tyler Johnson as a "turning point", but that's a clean (false) narrative. Florida dominated the second period before and after that attempt and deserved their two goal lead in the third period.
  • That much talked-about Tampa-Florida rivalry ...?