Victor Hedman, the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning defense core, and a band of merry prospects were not quite up to the task of beating the predominantly NHL roster that the Florida Panthers sent to Amalie Arena. The Lightning lost to the Florida Panthers 4-2 in the fourth game of the preseason.
#TBLightning pregame defensive pairings— Lightning Insider (@Erik_Erlendsson) September 24, 2017
The pace at the beginning of the game was flat. Neither team seemed to want to push the pace of play, except for Adam Erne and Matthew Peca, whose skill resulted in early offensive-zone time. The Panthers took both a slashing and face-off violation penalty in the first minute of the game, and six in the first period alone, but the Bolts were not able to capitalize on any of the powerplays.
Not being able to capitalize on the powerplay became a bit of a theme in this game — the Bolts went 0-8. Frankly, apart from Hedman and Mikhail Sergachev, there wasn’t very much fire power coming towards James Reimer’s net for much of the night. A lot of the forwards were not players you would normally see on the powerplay (Alex Killorn played 6:26), and it showed when it came to being in position to make quick, crisp passes.
Some positives out of the powerplay were definitely seeing Sergachev work his magic at the point alongside Hedman. Sergachev looked poised, aggressive, and purposeful with every move he made. With a little more talent on the ice to help open up some shooting lanes, a point-shot combination of Sergachev and Hedman would be a beauty to watch this season.
The Panthers got on the scoresheet first with a goal from Jamie McGinn, who was in the high slot when he tipped in a point shot from Ian McCoshen. Nick Bjugstad got the secondary assist on the play. Budaj complained that the the puck was hit from above the goal-line, meaning the goal should be disallowed, but the referees deemed the goal legal after a video review.
With all the special teams time, the defensive pairs got put in a blender. Braydon Coburn was with Ben Thomas, Sergachev with Hedman, and Slater Koekkoek with Dan Girardi. The poise Hedman has with and without the puck definitely rubbed off on Sergachev in this period. They were definitely the Bolts’ most productive pair in all three zones. The Coburn/Thomas pairing was decent, and for the most part, they kept the play relatively even until the Dadonov goal (which we will get to).
The Girardi/Koekkoek pairing was in their own end for a large chunk of ice time. The puck was dumped in, collected, and chipped out, only to be sent back in so many times that I was worried I was watching a gif, yikes.
I’m sorry for complaining about Girardi. How about a nice goal from a young Russian sniper?
Alexander Volkov got the Bolts on the board with a flash of speed, skill, and a bit of luck. The Lightning second-rounder took the puck from the half-wall, drove towards the net, and went for the wrap-a-round. The puck deflected off a defender’s stick and up over the pad of the Panthers’ goalie.
You can watch the goal in beautiful slow motion here:
Let’s take a minute to appreciate that goa- uh oh, the Panthers got one right back, 32 seconds later. Anthony Cirelli gave the puck away in the defensive zone and Thomas and Coburn got confused about who would cover in front of the net. Evgeni Dadonov scored on Peter Budaj.
A few minutes into the third, Mathieu Joseph, who had a pretty good showing for the most part, took a cross-checking penalty, sending the Panthers to the powerplay where they eventually scored. Cedric Paquette won the defensive zone faceoff back to Girardi, who tried to clear the puck off the boards. The puck got cut off by Jayce Hawryluk, who sent the puck to the Panthers’ newest old man, Radim Vrbata. He sniped it top shelf, short side, and it’s 3-1 bad guys.
Bolts were down two in the third period, but not to fear, Alex Volkov is here! Peca gave a slightly awkward pass to Killorn, who sent a slick cross ice pass to Volkov, who was facing a wide-open net. He buried it, and the lead is cut to 3-2, Cats.
One player that really impressed me late in this game was Mitchell Stephens. He had been quiet for most of the game, playing on the fourth line. Stephens was effective on the penalty kill, and his skating definitely stood out in what was a slow-paced game. Where was he in the first 40? Probably waiting for all the powerplays to be over.
In the dying minutes, Volkov almost got the hat trick when he had an open shot in the slot. Unfortunately, he fanned on the one-timer. Peca also had a chance, but his slapshot went wide. The puck was retrieved by Alex Petrovic, who sent it to Jonathan Huberdeau, who put it in the empty net from 190 feet out.
The Bolts pulled Budaj again in a last-ditch attempt to score, but it was to no avail, and the Panthers took the game, 4-2. Peter Budaj had a pretty solid showing. Sergachev, Erne, and Peca were definitely players that impressed me. How was Girardi? Girardi’s struggles with exiting the zone was definitely an aspect of his play that is concerning to me, but we’ll follow his play more closely in the regular season.