With the amount of injuries and players out of the line-up that the Tampa Bay Lightning have had to deal with of late, honestly, it’s pretty amazing we haven’t seen more games like tonight. Nothing went there way, there play was sloppy, and the Florida Panthers showed them no mercy as they downed the Lightning 9-3 in Sunrise on Thursday night. Jonathan Huberdeau led the way with 5 points (1 goal, 4 assists) while Anthony Duclair scored twice.
For the Lightning. Zach Bogosian, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point scored while Max Lagace and Hugo Alnefelt split the duties in goal. Lagace stopped 21 of 27 while Alnefelt relieved him in the third period and stopped 7 of the 10 shots he faced in his NHL debut.
Once again we had some Lightning and NHL debuts in tonight. Remi Elie (who has 106 NHL games with the Dallas Stars) made his Lightning debut while Darren Raddysh, older brother of Taylor, put on a NHL uniform for the first time in his career. Well, at least for a regular season game, I’m sure he’s put one on for pictures and pre-season games.
Max Lagace was back in the net for his second straight start.
The agressive nature of the Lightning defense and the speed of the Panthers forwards mixes as well as milk and Southern Comfort and it led to Florida’s first goal just over two minutes into the game. Anthony Duclair found a seam between Victor Hedman (protecting the middle of the ice) and Nolan Pratt (just outside the Panthers blueline) and received a breakout pass from Brandon Montour. Duclair flew in and made a quick deke that Max Lagace rarely sees in the AHL before tucking the puck past the goaltender’s outstretched right leg.
While the Lightning were matching the Panthers shift for shift at even strength, a penalty by Ross Colton gave Florida the first man-advantage and they connected. Some excellent cross-ice passing led to a shot by Sasha Barkov rebounded off the post and right to Huberdeau. He quickly kicked it to his stick, shifted it to his backhand and slid it into the net before Lagace could recover.
The Bolts were undeterred and used their own speed to set up a Grade A opportunity. Hedman jumped into a rush to make it a three-on-two rush and his centering pass found Steven Stamkos, but the captain couldn’t chip it home. Spoiler - that would be the story for the rest of the night. Tampa Bay unable to finish off their chances and Florida burying every single one they generated.
Florida made it 3-0 a few minutes later when the Lightning just kind of took a shift off. Hedman’s pass in the neutral zone was picked off and then the Panthers forecheck forced a turnover behind the net. Frank Vatrano was all alone in front of the net. His first shot hit the post, but the rebound came to him and he put it home. Really way too easy of a goal for Florida.
If the Lightning were going to stay relevant in this game they needed a response. That response was named Zach Bogosian. The big fella rumbled down the ice and fired a shot on Knight. He followed up the rebound and and slid a follow-up shot between the goalie and the near post to cut the Panthers lead to 3-1.
So, not the best twenty minutes of hockey this season, but the Lightning were within striking distance as long as they didn’t allow any early goals to the..... Whelp. Three minutes into the period Eetu Luostarinen made it 4-1. It was another rebound goal, and the third time on the night the Lightning failed to keep the front of Lagace’s net clean as Luostarinen beat Raddysh to the puck and swatted it home after Radko Gudas’ shot hit the post.
The Lightning are nothing if not resilient (most nights) and the captain brought them back to within two goals. Good positioning and quick hands. That’s all he needed to pot his 15th goal of the season. I’m not really sure what else the Panthers could have done to stop it as they had him surrounded and the puck was barely on his stick before it ended up in the back of the net.
From that point on the Panthers did what they were doing early in the season and what the Lightning have done in the past, just keep scoring. Before the horn would sound on the period Maxim Mamin and Lundell scored goals less than two minutes apart as the siege on Max Lagace continued. Would Andrei Vasilveskiy have made a difference in this period? Perhaps, but the play in front of the goaltender was just not up to the Lightning’s standard, even with a depleted line-up.
For the final twenty minutes, the Lightning switched things up in net as Hugo Alnefelt took over for Lagace. Another NHL debut! Interestingly enough, Alnefelt made his AHL debut in a relief effort of, you guessed it, Max Lagace. In that case it was due an injury to Lagace and not six goals allowed.
Look, I’d love to keep this recap going for the third period, but you saw the final score. Good things didn’t happen, well other than a Brayden Point power play goal. That was pretty nice. Then Florida scored the next three. Throw in a few scuffles and dirty looks between the teams and that’s it, that’s the third period recap. Final score 9-3. The only happy happy fans in the area were the ones that bet the over. Good news is that the Lightning can brush this off and get back on the ice against the New York Rangers tomorrow.
Anthony Duclair (Brandon Montour, Jonathan Huberdeau) 1-0 Panthers
We do Duclair that this goal is positively stunning! pic.twitter.com/ixuxQQwBvy— NHL (@NHL) December 31, 2021
Jonathan Huberdeau (Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart) PPG 2-0 Panthers
Frank Vatrano (Anton Lundell, Mason Matchment) 3-0 Panthers
Zach Bogosian (Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry) 3-1 Panthers
"The rebound, is it in? The Lightning say yes!"— Lightning Radio (@BoltsRadio) December 31, 2021
It was! Zach Bogosian got the Lightning on the board late in the first period to begin chipping away at what is now a 3-1 Panthers lead.@DaveMishkin and Chief on the call. #GoBolts pic.twitter.com/DU23Em3mo0
Eetu Luostarinen (Radko Gudas, Ryan Lomberg) 4-1 Panthers
Steven Stamkos (Ondrej Palat, Ross Colton) 4-2 Panthers
Maxim Mamin (Carter Verhaeghe, Eetu Luostarinen) 5-2 Panthers
Anton Lundell (Frank Vatrano, MacKenzie Weegar) 6-2 Panthers
Brayden Point (Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat) Power Play 6-3 Panthers
Anthony Duclair (Jonathan Huberdeau, MacKenzie Weegar) 7-3 Panthers
Anthony Duclair. Sheesh. pic.twitter.com/x852eTsKJf— Snipe N’ Celly (@SnipeNCellyPod) December 31, 2021
Aaron Ekblad (Jonathan Huberdeau, Anthony Duclair) 8-3 Panthers
ARE YOU KIDDING WITH THIS PASS, JONATHAN HUBERDEAU?— Bally Sports Florida & Bally Sports Sun (@BallySportsFL) December 31, 2021
Aaron Ekblad scores, and the Panthers now lead 8-3 in the 3rd! This is the most goals the Panthers have *ever* scored against Tampa Bay...@FlaPanthers | #TimeToHunt pic.twitter.com/1ND5xSUvTS
Aleksander Barkov (Johnathan Huberdeau)