One of the biggest areas of concern coming into this season for the Florida Panthers was fixing a power play unit that was last in the league at 13.1%. Assistant coach Craig Ramsey was brought in by head coach Kevin Dineen to resurrect a part of the game that had gone dormant for the Cats. Saturday night, against the Tampa Bay Lightning, there was hope as both tallies were with the man advantage. In the return bout Monday night in Tampa, there was cause for outright celebration in the 7-4 win against their in-state rival.
The Panthers power plays EXPLODED for five power play goals. Go ahead and read that again and let it sink in. Five. Throw in a short-handed goal for Sean Bergenheim (from an already strong penalty kill unit) and you might have the best overall special teams performance in team history. Kris Versteeg potted two power play Verbeauties, including the eventual game winner, with Tomas Kopecky, Stephen Weiss and Jason Garrison notching the others.
Three Panthers ended the game with four-point nights: Versteeg, Weiss (who each closed with 2 goals & 2 assists), and Brian Campbell, who finished with four assists.
Kopecky‘s goal got things started as the team scored first for the third time in four games. It was quickly followed by two Lightning goals, including one from Teddy Purcell, who became the first player to score on the Panthers penalty kill unit this season. Weiss‘ first tally tied the game up late in the period. Early in the second, Versteeg gave the team a lead they would never relinquish. Vinny Lecavalier beat the Panther defense for a goal late in the second to take the momentum into the intermission despite a 4-3 deficit. That momentum was crushed when Versteeg’s second goal blew past Dwayne Roloson :25 into the third. Steven Stamkos would blast a one-timer to make it 5-4, but as we learned on Saturday, these are not the same old Panthers. Instead of getting tight and playing defense for the remainder of the third, these Panthers attacked leading to the final two goals for Weiss and Garrison.
On the night, the Panthers finished a whopping 5-of-9 on the power play. Conversely, they killed off two of the three Lightning power plays. In the past two games, the Cats have earned 7 power play goals. Once again, read that and let it sink in.
If you’re a fan of defensive hockey, this wasn’t your game. Neither group of defensemen, nor either goalie played well in their end of the ice, but these kind of games happen. There was a lot of space out there, especially in the first, that both teams took advantage of. The difference is that this team now has the some offense to help withstand nights like this.
But it’s a quick turnaround as they head to Washington for another divisional game against the Capitals and their old pal, Tomas Vokoun on Tuesday.
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Topics: Brian Campbell, Craig Ramsey, Florida Panthers, Jason Garrison, Kevin Dineen, Kris Versteeg, Penalty Kill, Power Play, Sean Bergenehim, Stephen Weiss, Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay Lightning, Teddy Purcell, Toma Kopeecky, Tomas Vokoun, Verbeauty, Vinny Lecavalier, Washintgon Capitals