The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 in Sunrise in a game that saw Louis Domingue set the franchise record for consecutive wins by a goaltender at ten. He saved 25 of 27 shots. He wasn’t spectacular but just as he’s been over this whole stretch, he was solid and came up with the saves the team needed to keep them in the game.
Before puck drop, the team announced that Ondrej Palat would miss the game and is day to day with an upper body injury. That meant Ryan Callahan got back in the lineup. He took advantage of his chance scoring a breakaway goal in the second period to put the team up 3-1. On defense, Dan Girardi took his turn getting a night off.
The Lightning started strong against the Panthers. Despite both teams being on the second night of a back to back, the Lightning looked more ready to go. They kept the puck in the Panthers end and reaped their rewards four minutes into the period when Nikita Kucherov snapped his ten game goalless streak following a pretty pass from Victor Hedman in the corner.
Just a minute after the goal, the Lightning nearly struck again creating multiple scrums in front of Florida goalie James Reimer. J.T. Miller had the best chance but couldn’t corral the puck while the Reimer was out of position.
The Panthers got their only stretch of sustained pressure of the period during their only power play, which arrived seven minutes into the period. They created a good chance for Mike Hoffman on the rush but Domingue was up to the task. Florida continued to keep the puck in the zone in structure but didn’t put another dangerous shot on the Lightning net for the remainder of the power play.
Following the penalty, the game settled into a good flow, which was great for the Lightning. They like an open game and they continually established good offensive possessions while forcing the Panthers to dump and change.
The next good scoring chance came for the Lightning with seven minutes left in the period. Brayden Point collected a loose puck and rifled a shot off the inside of the far post. The rebound caromed directly to Yanni Gourde who had a great look at a mostly open net but couldn’t convert.
With three minutes left, the officials called matching minors setting up two minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. After looking bad in that situation last night against the Penguins, the Bolts looked much better tonight. They controlled the puck and kept the pressure on the Panthers. Mikhail Sergachev had the best chance on an end-to-end rush that saw him get a shot on Reimer from in close. But again, the Florida goaltender made the save.
At the end of the first, the Lightning held a big lead in shots and expected goals. They were the better team through the first 20 minutes and had a deserved one-goal lead to show for it.
As good as the Lightning were in the first period, they gave it all back and more in the second. But fortunately for them, not on the scoreboard. The Panthers dominated the game at 5v5 almost evening up the shot total in the first four minutes of the period.
The Lightning got the first power play when Denis Malgin took a tripping penalty. He sent Ryan McDonagh sprawling into the boards and left him covered in snow. Why would I mention that? Well, because it gave us this glorious gif of Anton Stralman wiping the snow off of McDonagh’s shoulder.
Unfortunately, the power play would only last thirty seconds because Point took a holding the stick penalty to even things up at 4-on-4. Neither team was able to generate much during the penalties but the Panthers continued to tilt the ice in their favor.
Louis Doming came up big with another clutch save just over seven minutes into the period. He got another one a few minutes later holding the lead for the Lightning without much support from his teammates.
In between those two chances, Gourde got a breakaway but flubbed the puck as he went to shoot. That made two golden chances that he failed to convert in this game. At this point, he might want to be looking into an exorcism for his equipment.
Through the first ten minutes of the period, the Lightning only got one shot on net and allowed ten at the other end of the ice. They were fortunate to still have the lead.
Despite the poor play, they added another goal with eight minutes left taking advantage of one of their few scoring chances. Anton Stralman skated in on the rush and fed a perfect pass to Steven Stamkos who tipped it past Reimer. Goals against the run of play are still goals and that one was big as it extended the lead to two goals.
Moments later, the Panthers answered after a turnover from Erik Cernak. The Bolts had already transitioned up ice expecting a breakout but the puck bounced over Cernak’s stick. Jonathan Huberdeau fed a perfect pass across the slot to Frank Vatrano and the Florida forward cut the lead back to one goal.
With four minutes left in the period, Tyler Johnson took a penalty. Down a skater, the Lightning penalty killers came up huge. Gourde almost sprung himself for a breakaway in the middle of the kill. Joseph almost did the same near the end. And at the very end, he did spring Ryan Callahan in alone and the veteran beat Reimer to extend the lead back to two goals.
If you thought the gif of Stralman and McDonagh was good, check out this one.
Callahan has handled his demotion to the thirteenth forward spot exactly as well as would be expected of someone of his caliber. When his time came to get back in the lineup, he was ready, did his job, and scored a goal. Seeing him celebrate like that with one of the young players who pushed him out of the lineup reinforces why he’s important to this team. If he’s willing to be the thirteenth forward and continue to lead in the locker room, he still has a big role to play for the remainder of this season.
Just like the previous goal, the Lightning allowed an immediate response. This time, Malgin converted and beat Domingue to cut the lead to one.
At the end of the second, the Panthers had taken over the lead in shots and expected goals.
After a rough second period, the Lightning came out and sealed the deal in the third. They didn’t dominate but they did enough to win and get Domingue the record.
The Panthers started the period by switching to Roberto Luongo in goal. The move was called a coach’s decision. Reimer didn’t look bad in the first two periods but I guess the Panthers were looking for a spark. It didn’t work.
The Bolts started the period in complete control. They almost scored twice in the opening minute. First, Kucherov and Hedman combined on a rush chance. Then, Gourde got another look. Tonight continued to not be his night. And his luck would only get worse.
Three and a half minutes into the period, Kuch drew a penalty on Vincent Trocheck sending the Lightning to the power play. Remember in the first period when Point, fired a shot off the post? He did that again but this time, the puck was an inch to the right and in the back of the net. He collected a nifty pass from Miller and launched it past Luongo.
Now with a two-goal lead, the Lightning went into lockdown mode. They focused on stifling the Panthers and settled into a counter attack style. It worked, generating a 3-on-2 rush. Gourde dropped the puck to Point, who passed to Kucherov, who fired another pass across the slot to Gourde. Again, Gourde couldn’t redirect it into the net. And again, I call for an exorcism.
The Bolts continued to dictate play through the whole period keeping Domingue clean and giving him little work to do. With three minutes left, the Panthers pulled Luongo. They got a brief stretch of zone time but gave up a rush to Miller and took a penalty to prevent him from scoring with just under two minutes left in the game.
With a minute left, they took another penalty sending the Lightning on a 5-on-3 penalty. The Bolts took advantage with Stamkos feeding Kucherov for a finish that looked too easy. The Hart candidate looked almost sorry for putting a fifth goal on the Panthers who were clearly out of the game at that point.
When the final horn sounded, the Lightning still trailed in shots and expected goals. But that was mostly due to one bad period. They were great in the first and good in the third.
The Lightning played well enough to win tonight. Not well enough to consider this an exemplary performance. But well enough to win.
Louis Domingue set the franchise record for consecutive wins by a goaltender. Anton Stralman had his best game in a while with two points and the best shot differential on the team. Nikita Kucherov snapped his 10-game goalless streak by getting on the scoreboard twice.
All in all, this was a solid win on the second night of a back to back. The Lightning return home on Tuesday for a showdown against the Western Conference leading Calgary Flames.