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Game 75: Panthers stop Lightning 5-2 behind Luongo

In a game that the Tampa Bay Lightning might expect to win most nights, Florida Panthers veteran goaltender Roberto Luongo made all the difference. As a result, the Panthers get a 5-2 win and retake first place in the Atlantic Division.

This is Roberto Luongo and he's why the Tampa Bay Lightning are now in second place.
This is Roberto Luongo and he's why the Tampa Bay Lightning are now in second place.
Kim Klement, USA TODAY Sports Images

The Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 in Tampa Saturday night.

The inaugural round of Games Between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers That Finally After All These Years Actually Mean Something (or G.B.T.B.L.F.P.T.F.A.T.Y.A.M.S. for short) goes to the guys from down south. Thanks primarily to ONE guy from down south, goaltender Roberto Luongo. He racked up 33 saves on 35 shots, many of the spectacular variety, and shut down a Lightning team that didn't play badly at all.

If you're looking for a criticism, you could say that Tampa Bay failed to generate the kind of "dirty goal" opportunities that you need when a goalie is having a great night (traffic in front, deflections, rebounds, etc.), but that's about it. The Lightning were without key players Valtteri Filppula, Ryan Callahan, Anton Stralman and Nikita Kucherov and still outplayed Florida for much of the game. Plus, it was the second game of a back-to-back for Tampa Bay while Florida got into town early for a day of rest yesterday. None of these things are excuses or even reasons for the loss; Florida is a very good team and it simply can't be overstated how great Luongo was tonight. It just illustrates that while the outcome is definitely disappointing, this was not a terrible effort by the Bolts.

"I thought it was a pretty good game. Both teams played extremely well. I think it came down to chances, and we might have out-chanced them but we just didn't bury them and they buried theirs. You have to give Luongo some credit; he had some great saves out there." - Tyler Johnson

Tampa Bay actually opened the scoring at 5:52 of the first when Tyler Johnson converted on the power play, getting assists from Nikita Nesterov and Ondrej Palat. It won't show up on the scoresheet, but that goal happened because Brian Boyle screened Luongo who never saw the shot.

Florida tied it at 13:36 when Vincent Trocheck scored on an assist by Jussi Jokinen.

They took the lead just under five minutes later at 18:02 when Jaromir Jagr scored on the power play, getting assistance from Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau.

They would stretch the lead to 3-1 in the second and to 4-1 early in the third.

Head coach Jon Cooper opted to pull starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy for an extra skater with nearly six minutes remaining in regulation and the move gave the Lightning a potential spark when Steven Stamkos scored on a power play at 16:48. He got helpers from Boyle and Palat on the play.

But that was as close as they'd get and Jokinen sewed things up with an empty netter with 25 seconds left.

"Obviously, it's not perfect. We strive, we want to be perfect, but we have to understand that tomorrow is a day off and we can't let it linger. We need to come out flying on Monday. What's done is done and we need to turn the page and understand that we have a big test coming in here Monday against a team that we didn't play very well against the last couple of times." - Brian Boyle

The Lightning will host the Toronto Maple Leafs Monday night.

Game notes:

  • This was the fifth and final regular season meeting between the Atlantic Division leaders, with the Panthers taking the season series 3-1-1.
  • The Lightning hadn't lost at home to Florida in regulation since April 27, 2013.
  • The Lightning are now 50-50-12 all time against the Panthers.
  • With the loss, the Lightning are now 5-5-2 in second games of back-to-backs this season.
  • Lightning opponents have scored 11 goals in the three games since Ben Bishop shut out the Arizona Coyotes on March 19th.
  • Tampa Bay is 11-24-2 when scoring fewer than three goals.
  • The Lightning had a three-game winning streak snapped and fall into second place in the Atlantic Division, two points behind the Panthers with both teams having seven games to play.
  • The Lightning honored Nikki Rodriguez as the 38th Lightning Community Hero of the 2015-16 season during the first period of tonight's game. Rodriguez, who received a $50,000 donation from the Lightning Foundation and the Lightning Community Heroes program, will donate the money to LiFT University and the Disability Achievement Center. Tonight's community hero has benefitted the lives of young adults with developmental disabilities. As a social worker, Rodriguez experienced how young adults with developmental disabilities experience similar isolation that she did when she was battling cancer. The cancer survivor's efforts have resulted in the inception of LiFT University, a full transition program for young adults with disabilities in order for them to become a viable asset to society. Additionally, she also started the Disability Achievement Center, a social skills group that provides children with one-on-one education in and outside public schools. Moving forward, Rodriguez will continue to reiterate and accomplish LiFT's four pillars to success: academics, career readiness, strengthened social skills and independent living skills. Rodriguez becomes the 217th Lightning Community Hero since Jeff and Penny Vinik introduced the program in 2011-12 with a $10 million, five-season commitment to the Tampa Bay community. Through this evening's game, in total, the Lightning Foundation has granted $11 million to more than 300 different non-profits in the Greater Tampa Bay area.