A three-goal first period for the Florida Panthers proved to be too much for the Tampa Bay Lightning to overcome and they dropped their second consecutive game, 4-1. Brayden Point had the lone goal for the Lightning while Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 37 of 40 shots in the loss. Eric Staal, Anton Lundell, and Eetu Luostarinen scored just over 11 minutes apart to give the Panthers the early lead while Anthony Duclair sealed it with an empty netter. Sergei Bobrovsky was sharp in his end with 29 saves on 30 shots, including all 19 third period attempts he faced.
The game started with newcomer Tanner Jeannot joining Nick Paul and Ross Colton on the third line. Anthony Cirelli, Brandon Hagel, and Steven Stamkos constituted a line while Alex Killorn joined Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. The School Bus line of Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Corey Perry, and Pat Maroon stayed together.
Despite the new arrangements, the Panthers were first to the back of the net. While the goal came courtesy of Eric Staal deflecting a shot from the high slot, the play started when Ryan Lomberg was able to walk around Nick Perbix on an entry. It initially looked like Perbix had slowed the rush, but Lomberg skated around him to get to a loose puck right in front of Vaslevskiy. That led to a bout of possession from the Panthers that ended in the Staal deflection.
Eric Staal (Josh Mahura, Nick Cousins) 1-0 Panthers
The Lightning had a few good shifts in the early minutes of the game, the only problem was that the sights on their sticks were slightly off. They missed the net nine times in the first period with at least three or four tips going just wide.
Some of the same struggles they experienced on the road followed them home as their breakouts were often broken and the Panthers beat them to loose pucks. Case in point, goal number two.
Zach Bogosian challenged the puck at the Lightning blue line and then inadvertently poked it out of his own reach. Anton Lundell beat him to the puck and handcuffed Vasilevskiy with the shot.
Anton Lundell (Matthew Tkachuk, Marc Staal) 2-0 Panthers
Turnovers, turnovers, turnovers. Ian Cole has the puck behind the Lightning goal line. Then he doesn’t have it. Corey Perry tried to flick it out of danger, but he put it right on Eetu Luostarinen’s stick. A quick shot beat Vasy cleanly. Two goals in ninety seconds and frustration flashed across the face of Coach Cooper.
Eetu Luostarinen (unassisted) 3-0 Panthers
Corey Perry went to the box for crosschecking and for most of the kill were doing an okay job. They actually had pretty good coverage when Gustav Forsling let one go from the point. It beat Vasilevskiy on the glove side. Pretty much because Matthew Tkachuk had impeded his glove with his stick. To the review booth!
Lightning head into intermission down 3-0 instead of 4-0, which is better, not by much, but better.
Not shocked that Coach Cooper threw the Point/Hagel/Kucherov line back together to start the second period and they spent some time in the zone. They also recorded something that the Lightning hadn’t done since the 4:39 mark of the first period - a shot on goal. Two of them in fact. So there was a little progress.
That progress was halted when Ian Cole got on the wrong side of Luostarinen and was whistled for holding. Florida flung a bunch of shots high and wide and the Lightning were able to clear the puck as well. That’s good enough for a penalty kill. Oh, and Vasilevskiy made a nice save on Duclair as Cole hopped back on the ice.
Nick Perbix cruised into the crease and backhanded a puck off of a Panther and past Bobrovsky, but because the Lightning haven’t earned a break over the last few games, they don’t get one here, and the play was determined offside after a review. The only happy Lightning fans in the building were the ones betting on the under (6.5 total goals).
Nothing seemed to be going right for the Lightning. There were bad clears, bad decisions, and bad luck. Even when it seemed like they might have a break or an odd man rush, the player with the puck wasn’t exactly the one they wanted. It was Erik Cernak in the first and Corey Perry in the second. As you can guess neither put the puck in the net.
Perry didn’t score, but he did draw a penalty on Staal. So maybe a power play would inject a little life into things. It did! And the Lightning even got away with making the extra pass. Kucherov went circle to circle to Stamkos and Florida collapsed on him. Stammer was able to slide the puck to the slot where Brayden Point bumped it into the net.
Brayden Point (Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 3-1 Panthers
A little life, the crowd cheering behind them, could this get the skates moving for the Bolts? Well, they did force another penalty as Lundell flung the puck over the net. There would be no goal despite some clean looks. Following the power play the Lightning spent another 30-45 seconds in the zone as they worked the puck around and fought for loose pucks. There was some dog back in their game.
Unfortunately the fourth line got caught out on the ice on a long shift and the Lightning couldn’t capitalize on the momentum. The Lightning played well at times in that period and showed some signs of life, but it was another period where they saw the bulk of the even strength scoring chances go to their opponents (16-7).
A power play goal to start the period! Maybe. Nope.
For the third time on the night, we went to the replay booth. For the third time on the night the goal was washed away into the ether. Might I add, all three calls were correctly overturned. Alex Killorn had charged the net with the puck and spun Bobrovsky around as Stamkos bounced the puck in off of the goalies’ pads.
The Lightning played well in the third period, honestly one of their best periods in awhile, but couldn’t bridge the gap that was created by their poor first period. Another power play midway through the period for the Lightning had some bright spots but no goals.
Bobrovsky gifted them a fifth power play when he took out Killorn on a two-on-one, perhaps a little payback for the collision earlier in the period? Unfortunately, there was little action on this one as Florida was able to clear pucks with relative ease and the two minutes flew by without a threat.
Coach Cooper pulled the goalie with almost four minutes to go and it led to a couple of chances. The best was a pass from Cirelli to Perry that skipped under Perry’s stick. Cirelli had a nice high-slot deflection, but Bob didn’t allow it to get through him.
So, there was a sequence that defined the struggles the Lightning are going through. Kucherov gunned a shot on net that Bobrovsky could not cover, it looked like Perry could chip it in, but Marc Staal kept it out of the empty net. The Lightning kept grinding and Stamkos had a shot from his office, but it rang the post. They created the chances, but the hockey gods weren’t bailing them out from their poor play in the first period.
Eventually the Panthers were able to get the puck out of their zone and Anthony Duclair picked up his first goal of the season on an empty netter. Despite a spirited third period, the Lightning did get their just desserts in the the 4-1 loss.
Hopefully, if nothing else it gives them a little boost heading into their rematch with the Pittsburgh Penguins on Thursday.