Chris Driedger posted a 30-save shutout and four different Florida Panthers scored as they beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-0 in the final game of the season. MacKenzie Weegar, Juho Lammikko, Carter Verhaeghe, and Alex Wennberg scored against Andre Vasilevskiy, who had 26 saves on 30 shots in the loss.
Overshadowing the loss was the NHL debut of one of the most popular players in Syracuse Crunch history, Daniel Walcott. The 27-year-old forward played 10:03, dolled out 7 hits, fired one shot on goal, and a had a fight. Yup, that sounds like a Daniel Walcott night.
You love to see it. https://t.co/6RlDO1Oto1— Raw Charge, a Champa Bay Lightning web site (@RawCharge) May 10, 2021
Not only did Wally get the rookie lap, he also started the game alongside Gemel Smith and Mathieu Joseph. It was a historic way to start the game as it is believed to be the first time a NHL team had an all-Black line play for them. Earlier this season the Ontario Reign of the AHL also featured an all-Black line with Akil Thomas, Quinton Byfield, and Devante Smith-Pelly. The first documented line featuring all-Black players was for Sherbrooke in the Quebec Senior Hockey League that featured Herb Carnegie, his brother Ozzie, and Manny McIntyre back in the 1940’s.
The rest of the shuffled lines were:
Alex Killorn - Brayden Point - Anthony Cirelli
Blake Coleman - Yanni Gourde - Ross Colton
Tyler Johnson - Mitchell Stephens- Alex Barré-Boulet
Jan Rutta also re-entered the line-up in place of Ben Thomas.
There was one constant in the line-up - Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Big Cat made his 42nd start of the season, currently second only to Connor Hellebuyck in the league. With a prolonged break coming up before the playoffs start, it’s nice to get him in a little more action and another chance to see his first round opponent in action.
The first shift for the Smith line didn’t last long as Joseph took a high stick just 50 seconds into the game from old friend Carter Verhaeghe. It was a pretty gnarly cut that drew blood and earned Verhaeghe a four-minute penalty.
The lack of cohesiveness among the Lightning forwards really showed on special teams throughout the period as the Lightning had a total of three power play opportunities and didn’t threaten the net too much (a ripper of a slap shot from Alex Killorn notwithstanding). Florida also had a chance shorthanded that went by the wayside as a majority of the first half of the period was played on special teams.
When things settled down to five-on-five, the Lightning actually had a bit of a push, but it was Florida scoring the opening goal.
MacKenzie Weegar stripped Cirelli of the puck in the Florida zone and brought it down the ice. He dished it off to 19 and crisscrossed into the Lightning zone. He didn’t hesitate to shoot when he got the puck back and beat Vasilevskiy over the blocker.
MacKenzie Weeger (Mason Marchment, Juho Lammikko)
Not a great goal for Vasilevskiy to give up and he still seems to be fighting it a bit. It was an uneven period for both teams with Florida pretty much controlling 5v5 play with 68.42% of the shot attempts and 70% (7 of 10) of the scoring chances. The multiple power play chances for the Lightning evened things up a bit as 7 of their 14 shot attempts came with the man advantage.
After some back-and-forth play to start the second, the Lightning had the first really dangerous chance but Driedger absolutely robbed Killorn on a tic-tac-toe passing play from Point and Cirelli. Point hit Cirelli as a trailer and Tony quickly passed it over to Killorn to the goalie’s left. Killorn fired it on net, but couldn’t get it over the left pad. The rebound was slid harmlessly through the crease as well.
Unlike the first period, it took almost eight minutes for the Lightning to get a power play. Killorn drew a holding penalty on veteran Keith Yandle and the power play unit trundled back on the ice for the fourth time in the game. Things went from bad to worse as Vasilevskiy tried to play the puck to himself behind the net and had it stolen by Lummikko who snagged the puck and tucked it inside the near post before Vasy could recover.
Juho Lammikko (unassisted)
With just over six minutes left in the period some of the simmering tension from Saturday night that had been under the surface for the first half of the game finally boiled over. Mason Marchment leveled Jan Rutta with a hit along the boards. Rutta took exception and tackled Marchment which set off a line skirmish. Walcott and Kevin Connauton dropped the gloves for a brief fight. Florida ended up with a power play that the Lightning killed off.
Things quieted down a bit for the rest of the period and the Lightning had the best sustained pressure in the final seconds, but the Gourde line couldn’t put one past Driedger, but the Bolts did draw a penalty with 1.4 seconds left in the period.
The third period started with the Lightning on the power play and it looked better. They also didn’t give up a goal which is nice. What was not so nice was that the Panthers scored shortly after. Rutta was caught in the defensive zone and Verhaeghe led a two-on-one the other way. With Cernak caught in limbo, the former Bolt decided to take the shot and he beat Vasilevskiy cleanly for this 18th goal of the season.
Carter Verhaeghe (Anthony DuClair, Sasha Barkov)
After the goal, the Lightning tried to get some action working in front of Driedger, but he wasn’t playing along as he swallowed all of the initial shots and didn’t allow many rebounds. Even when they did have him beat, as Rutta did as a trailer on a transition play, the puck wouldn’t behave as he clanged it off of the post.
Point was impressed by Rutta’s ability to hit a a 5mm target that he did the same thing off of a wonderful touch pass from ABB. The Panthers were content to get the puck into the Lightning zone and work it around the boards while working the clock down.
With just under six minutes to go in the game, they pretty much sealed the game (and home-ice advantage) when Alex Wennberg tipped a point shot by Radko Gudas past Vasilevskiy to make it 4-0.
Alex Wennberg (Radko Gudas, Keith Yandle)
The Lightning didn’t stop pressing, but just couldn’t put the puck home. Congratulations to the Panthers for sweeping the season-ending series. See you in the playoffs.