Game 24: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning

It started off good, until the first shootout of the year led to a 4-3 loss to the Florida Panthers.

Despite missed opportunities in the opening minutes from both Florida and Tampa Bay power plays, the Lightning came out with strong effort against the Panthers. Tampa Bay opened the scoring on the Lightning power play with a goal from Teddy Purcell's (10:21), assisted by Steven Stamkos and Ryan Malone. The Lightning finished the first period with 9 shots on goal, compared to Florida's 6, but finished on top at 1-0.

Into the second, another opportunity came halfway through the period when Dana Tyrell capitalized on a rebound, taking the puck behind Tomas Vokoun, assisted by Mattias Ritola and Steve Downie, to raise the score 2-0.

Following Tyrell's goal the Lightning entered a power play after Darcy Hordichuk's roughing penalty, but Lightning mistakes and inconsistent officiating gave the Panther's a penalty shot against goaltender Dan Ellis. Radek Dvorak capitalized and opened the Panther's scoring at 2-1.

Florida closed the gap three minutes into the third period when Dmitry Kulikov lifted the puck past Pavel Kubina and Ellis, to tie the score at 2-2. This was followed by a third Florida goal at even strength from Shawn Mattias five minutes later.

The Lightning evened the scoring with a third goal from Sean Bergenheim, assisted by Purcell and Malone, but couldn't get another goal in regulation, or in overtime for that matter, and lost the game in shoot out when Stephen Weiss scored in the fourth round to finish it off at 4-3 for the Florida win.

Guy Boucher was disappointed with the loss, to say the least, especially with the end decided in shootout.

"I've never liked them. Win or lose. For me, I've said it before and I'll say it again a million times, we didn't really get a team win or a team loss. It [the shootout] is an individual skill."

It is disappointing to fall to Florida, who always seems like they'll be an easy win. Steve Downie remarked:

"I don't know what it is. We've got to find a way to beat these guys. We've struggled against them the last couple of years, and we have to turn that around real quick."

Teddy Purcell was a surprising, unsung hero in this game. With the injuries piling up, he's been a major force for the Lightning, now totaling 5 goals and 12 assists for the Lightning, and is third best in Lightning points.

"I'm getting a good chance here to play with those guys, and trying to do the best I can to take advantage of moving the puck around more. Stammer made a great play and the goaltender was coming across. I didn't have to do too much work except to put it upstairs when he wasn't there."

Despite the loss, it the consistent effort, from Purcell and from the team. It's tough to lose, but the Lightning has the skill to move past it.

Crazy stat of the night: Tampa Bay has given up 6 shorthanded goals this season, compared to Florida's 5 power play goals.

Other (less crazy) stat: Tonight marked the second-longest span of games (24) in franchise history to open a season before the team's first shootout. The longest stretch was 27 games in 2007-08.

Up Next: The Lightning (13-8-3) will hit the road next week to play the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, November 30 and the Boston Bruins on Thursday, December 2. We will be here. On the game thread. Like always.

Other recaps:

Panthers vs Lightning coverage

Panthers vs Lightning recap [TSN]

Panthers vs Lightning boxscore [TSN]

Litter Box Cats [SB Nation]