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Lightning can’t comeback against the Panthers, lose 5-3.

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But Victor Hedman hit the 400-assist mark. That was cool.

NHL: APR 17 Panthers at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning gave up three hard-luck goals in the first period and couldn’t overcome the deficit as they lost to the Florida Panthers, 5-3, on Saturday Night. Andrei Vasilevskiy made 27 saves on 31 shots while Sergei Bobrovsky made one more on the same amount of shots. Brayden Point, Erik Cernak, and Mathieu Joseph scored for the Bolts while Brandon Montour, Patric Hornqvist, Jonathan Huberdeau, and Anthony DuClair scored for the Panthers.

It wasn’t a bad game for the Lightning, just a bit of an unfortunate one. It was also a case of Florida converting their opportunities while Tampa Bay didn’t. At even strength the Bolts had 25 scoring chances and 9 of those were of the high-danger variety. That’s not a bad night’s work. They just struggled to finish off those chances whereas the Panthers were a bit more efficient.

The first period was a really good period for the Lightning everywhere except for the scoreboard. Somehow, by the time the twenty minutes were over, the Panthers had a 3-1 lead. Florida didn’t have a lot of chances, but they capitalized when they did have some, with a little help from Lady Luck.

Goal One - bounced off a player at the side of the net

Goal Two - power play goal

Goal Three - in the final seconds as Vasilevskiy kicks the rebound right to Huberdeau’s stick.

Still, you create your own luck in this game and that’s what Florida did. They put themselves in spots to score. They have a lot of skill on their team and the Bolts can’t relax when they’re in their own zone or they’re, well...going to give up goals.

Offensively, the Lightning pressed the play really well. They had 22 shot attempts at even strength and both of their power plays generated good looks. When Coach Cooper talks about process over results, that is what he is referring to. The Lightning put themselves in spots to score goals, they just didn’t go in.

On the power play, Alex Barré-Boulet and Victor Hedman both had big slap shots that forced Bobrovsky to make big saves. Yanni Gourde and Anthony Cirelli were running tip drills like it was practice, but just couldn’t connect.

The push they had in the first period dissolved a little in the middle frame as Florida came out with a little more energy (and fewer turnovers in the neutral zone). When the Lightning generated their chances, they still couldn’t catch a break. It seemed like whenever Bobrovsky had a rebound there was no one in front, but when there was a Lightning player in front of the net Bob swallowed the puck.

The Panthers pushed the lead to three goals late in the period when the puck squirted by Sergachev at the Florida blueline. Frank Vatrano pounced on it and used the extra step he had on Sergy to get a clean look at Vasilevakiy. A useful little move to his backhand twisted the Lightning netminder up a little and Vartano slid it into the net. Sometimes the other team just makes a really good play.

After the goal, there was some life from Tampa Bay and they scored a last minute goal of their own. The Lightning had the puck in the Florida zone and were working it between the points. Erik Cernak started towards the net and was content to let a mid-range wrister go, but Juho Lammikko had blown a tire trying to challenge the play, which allowed Cernak a little more space. He took another stride in and snapped a beautiful wrist shot past Bobrovsky. Heading into the third period down two goals wasn’t great, but it was better than being down three goals.

The Lightning brought it within one goal early in the third as Hedman hammered a shot on net that Mathieu Joseph deflected past Sergei Bobrovsky. While they pushed, Florida did an excellent job of defending the front of the net and forcing Tampa back into their own zone. Brayden Point had the best chance of the period when he streaked in with the puck. Bobrovsky channeled his fellow Russian and went full Vasilevskiy to block the shot with his right pad.

If Point scores there, the game turns on its head and possibly the Lightning pull it out. Twasn’t to be though. Anthony DuClair added the empty netter at the end and it was a 5-3 Panthers final.

There were some solid things to pull from this game. The defense was a lot tighter (I know, crazy when they gave up five goals!) and there was a lot more structure to their game. They did chase it a little in the second period, but for roughly 70% of the game they were the better team. Florida did an excellent job of counterattacking and taking advantage of the chances the Lightning gave them, but for the most part it was a good game that ended unfortunately.

If they play like they did in the first and third period and get a little more puck luck, they will put together a nice winning streak together to end the season. They have a day off before two in a row against the Hurricanes starting Monday which should kick off a fun end to the season.

Highlights

Brayden Point (Mikhail Sergachev, Ondrej Palat) 2-1 Florida

Erik Cernak (Blake Coleman, Victor Hedman) 4-2 Florida

Mathieu Joseph (Victor Hedman, ) 4-3 Florida

Lowlights

Brandon Montour (Sam Bennett) 1-0 Florida

Patric Hornqvist (Sergei Barkov, Nikita Gusev) 2-0 Florida

Jonathan Huberdeau (Markus Nutivarra, Sam Bennett) 3-1 Florida

Frank Vatrano (unassisted) 4-1 Florida

Anthony DuClair (Radko Gudas, empty net) 5-3 Florida.