Andrei Vasilevskiy and Sergei Bobrovsky put on a goaltending show (especially in overtime) as the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers in overtime, 3-2. Brayden Point had the game winner while Pat Maroon (on the power play!) and Victor Hedman also scored. Jonathan Huberdeau and Eetu Luostarinen scored 36 seconds apart for the Panthers.
The Bolts had some familiar faces return to the line-up as Zach Bogosian returned to the line-up for the first time since he was injured in the season-opening game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. After battling a small injury himself, Boris “The Boriscuda” Katchouk returned and skated on a line with Ross Colton and Taylor Raddysh (The Triplets 2.0, maybe?) Mikhail Sergachev also returned to action after his two-game suspension and logged 23:22 of ice time.
The bad news is that Erik Cernak was out of the game due to his upper body injury. Coach Cooper and his staff dealt with it by pumping up the ice time of all the defensemen. Even Cal Foote logged 13:31 while Sergachev, Hedman (24:12), Ryan McDonagh (21:58), and Jan Rutta (20:04) were all over 20 minutes. Bogosian skated 18:01 in his return.
On to the action!
The first period had some nice moments for both teams, but it seemed Florida was dictating the play a little more than the Lightning. Tampa Bay was reacting to what the Panthers more than they were forcing their own play. The home team also fumbled the puck around a little more in their own zone.
As has been a struggle for most of the year, Lightning turnovers turned into chances for the other team. First it was a bit of a flubbed pass at the Florida blueline by Hedman that led to Anthony Duclair streaking down the ice all by himself. Vasilevskiy calmly stood his ground and blockered the shot out of danger with an elegant casualness. A little later Zach Bogosian had to make a nice play to deflect a Jonathan Huberdeau pass on a two-on-one after a neutral zone turnover by the Bolts.
That danger was averted but the Lightning still struggled to get much going in the Florida zone. There were a few too many one-on-three entries that learned to turnovers while the few times they did get it low, the Panthers quickly dealt with the forecheck and moved the puck out.
An unlikely source did swing the tables (and the scoreboard) in the Lightning’s favor. It was - the power play. MacKenzie Weegar’s overally agressive check on Anthony Cirelli during a goalmouth scramble led to the Lightning advantage and after a bit of a stumbly start (there was an icing and an odd-man rush for Florida), the Lightning connected.
It was the second unit, featuring Alex Killorn, that found pay dirt. Killorn did a nice job of winning a battle at the blueline and fed the puck down low to Ross Colton. The youngster, having surveyed the ice before receiving the puck, knew exactly where he was going with it. He lasered a pass to the far post where Pat Maroon was camped out all alone. The Big Rig deflected it past Sergei Bobrovskiy for the goal.
The two teams battled things about evenly after the goal with Florida being gifted a power play near the end. Carter Verhaeghe took a stumble into the corner as he turned back towards the net, but Hedman unfortunately slapped him in thigh with his stick at the same time, an action the ref deemed worthy of a penalty. Florida was unable to capitalize with the extra skater and the period ended with the Bolts up 1-0.
The reconstituted defense did a decent job of protecting the front of the net, allowing just one high-danger chance per Natural Stat Trick. They also blocked six of the sixteen shot attempts Florida fired at the net. It wasn’t a picture perfect first period, but given their recent struggles in Amalie Arena, it was good enough.
The Lightning did start the middle frame on the backfoot as they had thirty seconds of penalty time to kill off, which they did thanks to the calming influence of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. After returning to even strength a bad pass by Cirelli caught Hedman flatfooted but Jan Rutta recovered for his partner nicely to deny Anton Lundell’s attempt at goal, because that’s what friends do.
For the most part, early in the period, the Lightning did a fair job of blunting their counterpart’s desire to speed through the neutral zone. There were a few moments where Florida made a clean break out of their zone and hit the Lightning blueline with speed and numbers, but the Bolts were able to force them wide until the numbers equalized in the zone. When they didn’t, Vasilevskiy made the save, like he did on a tricky wrist shot from old friend Verhaeghe.
Seemingly out of nowhere, Brayden Point snapped and took out a little frustration on Patric Hornqvist. Point employed an interesting technique of allowing Hornqvist to wear himself out by repeatedly absorbing the Panther’s puches to the top of the helmet. Point did get a good shot or two in and handled himself well in his sixth career NHL fight.
Sparked by Point’s willingness to throw down, the Lightning doubled their lead. That’s how it works, right? A shot by Boris Katchouk from the right boards was deflected past the front of the net, right to Victor Hedman who punched it into the undefended net. Katchouk picked up his first NHL point with that primary assist.
The Panthers have a lot of skill and it led to a goal by Huberdeau. After a three-way collision along the boards where a Lightning player took out Sasha Barkov and Bellemare, Huberdeau picked up the loose puck and skated through the middle of the ice. A subtle little shimmy took Ryan McDonagh out of the play and Huberdeau’s shot hit a stick, deflecting by Vasilevskiy.
Barkov hit up high, but Huberdeau gets some revenge. pic.twitter.com/SioQCojSrg— Jameson Olive (@JamesonCoop) November 14, 2021
Florida wasted no time celebrating as Eetu Luostarinen deflected a point shot past Vasy to tie the game. That was a turn of events that displeased the home crowd. Also displeasing was a blistering shot by Steven Stamkos a few minutes later that caught the iron behind a screened Bobrovsky and stayed out of the net.
At the horn, the teams were skating at four-a-piece thanks to coincidental penalties to Alex Killorn (holding) and MacKenzie Weegar (embellishment). After the two quick goals by the Panthers things settled down a bit with both teams having limited chances.
The teams entered the final frame deadlocked at two goals, because, well, why not? They’ve pretty much played each other even over the past two season so why wouldn’t the game be tied late in the game?
It was the Colton line that caused a little worry for the Panthers early in the period as they maintained an extended period of play in the Florida zone that resulted in Bobrovsky having to make a nice save to keep the puck out of the net.
Florida kept bottling up the Lightning in the neutral zone, not allowing the Bolts to enter the zone with any semblance of speed. Tampa Bay tried their best to overcome that by chipping the puck into the zone, but had trouble gaining control of the puck. Florida had a little easier time working through the neutral zone, but once in the zone Tampa kept them at bay.
When the Lightning did get their chances, the puck really didn’t cooperate. Stamkos wristed a shot through a screen that froze Bobrovskiy but was interrupted on its way to the back of the net by the shaft of the goaltenders stick (lending more evidence in my argument that goaltenders’ sticks should only extend six inches past where the goalie grips it). The Cirelli line caused a bit of chaos in front of the net midway through the period but Cirelli wasn’t able to deflect the puck in and Point bunted one out of midair just over the bar.
Both teams had chances in front of their opponent’s nets but couldn’t cash in so the game went into overtime.
Hedman steals a puck at the blueline and breaks in alone. Bob stops him. So Vasy feels the need to do the same at the other end of the ice. Bob got his toe on Hedman’s backhander while Vasy went full extension to stop Ekblad with his glove.
Inject this goaltending into my veins!
Is there anything prettier than a succesful stretch pass? The Panthers trio got caught on the ice a little too long and Ondrej Palat caught them. He spied Brayden Point jumping off the bench behind the Panthers defense and put a pass right on his tape. Pretty as a Sand Key sunset. Point buried it into the back of the net on the backhand.