Give the Tampa Bay Lightning credit. Their game against the Florida Panthers on Monday night was a complete team effort. Sure, it was a terrible effort, but at least it was one that all 19 players managed to contribute to. Matthew Tkachuk put up five points for the Panthers as they throttled the Lightning 7-1.
The Bolts managed to throw all of their bad habits into 60 minutes:
Turnovers - yup
Random passes to no one - yup
Power play goals allowed - yup (x2)
Defensive zone breakdowns - yup
Lack of sustained pressure in the offensive zone - yup
Copious amount of shots allowed - yup (49)
Throw in a solid performance by Sergei Bobrovsky (30 saves on 31 shots) and the Lightning were pretty much road kill from the second period through the end of the game.
The first goal of the game came off of a turnover, yes, but it was also a good job of scouting by the Panthers. They know the Bolts like the little bump pass from the mid-boards to a forward leaving the zone with speed. Erik Cernak tried that play and Matthew Tkachuk was waiting for it. He picked off the pass and fed it across the ice to old friend Carter Verhaeghe who managed to get it just over Vasilevskiy’s glove and into the back of the net.
Carter Verhaeghe (Matthew Tkachuk) 1-0 Panthers
With the matching minors winding down early in the second period, the Lightning had a bit of a defensive breakdown. Two players, Ian Cole and Nikita Kucherov, chased Tkachuk behind the net. Which would have been a good play if they forced a turnover. Unfortunately, they didn’t and the All-Star MVP found Sam Bennett all alone in front of the net and he put it past Vasilevskiy for the 2-0 lead.
Sam Bennett (Mathew Tkachuk, Aaron Ekblad) 4-on-4, 2-0 Panthers
The Lightning didn’t sit back and the top line finally put together a nice shift in the offensive zone. Kucherov might like to pass first, but he also likes to fire from unconventional spots. He did it again as he wristed a shot from just inside the blue line with traffic in front. It was spot on and Bobrovsky never saw it until he was digging it out of the net.
Nikita Kucherov (Mikhail Sergachev, Brayden Point) 2-1 Panthers
That would be pretty much the last (and only) shining moment for the Bolts. Any momentum the goal built up fizzled away like a deflated balloon as Florida regained the two-goal lead with a power play goal.
Matthew Tkachuk was a problem for the Lightning all night long. With Erik Cernak in the box for interference, the son of Keith was able to bat home a goal with the man advantage after the puck hit Zach Bogosian in front of the net. A little bit of puck luck and a little bit of skill for the home squad there.
Matthew Tkachuk (Carter Verhaeghe, Sam Bennett) Power Play, 3-1 Panthers
Back-to-back power plays came up empty for the Lightning as the Panthers kept most of the action close to the boards and away from the dangerous areas. Ross Colton had the best chance, as Corey Perry slid a nice one-handed pass across the crease, but Bobrovsky was able to slide over and keep the pads on the ice to deny Colton’s attempt.
Not scoring on the power play felt like a wasted opportunity to get back into the game. That feeling escalated when Bobrovsky stoned Stamkos on a quasi-breakaway. With those chances in the past, Florida extended their lead with a shot from Brandon Montour that appeared to clip Eetu Luostarinen’s stick and past Vasilevskiy. At least Tkachuk didn’t pick up a point on the goal.
Eetu Luostarinen (Brandon Montour, Carter Verhaeghe) 4-1 Panthers
The Lightning started the third period with a nice push, no goals or anything, but a little bit of pressure. Hey maybe they were going to pull off a nice multi-goal comeback. Yeah, no.
Vasilevskiy decided to see what it would be like to turn over the puck as he tried to backhand a pass off the boards behind his net. It did not go well. Honestly, there is no explanation for as poor as the Lightning played in the third period so we’ll just show the Panthers’ goals.
Eric Staal (unassisted) 5-1 Panthers
Carter Verhaeghe (Matthew Tkachuck) 6-1 Panthers
Matthew Tkachuk (Sam Bennett, Aaron Ekblad) Power Play, 7-1 Panthers
It’ll be a quiet flight home and then the Lightning are back on the ice tomorrow against the San Jose Sharks. Expect a spirited effort from Tampa Bay as they look to erase the bad taste from this loss and keep their home winning streak going.