Stamkos celebrates his second period goal. Photo Source: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Day After: Lightning Strikes 3rd Time For Florida Panthers' Homestand

Different story, same ending.

For the first two games of this three game homestand, the Florida Panthers spotted their opposition two-goal, first-period leads before coming back to tie and send the game to a shootout before falling. Sunday against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it was the Panthers who built a first period lead but the ending was still the same, as they dropped a 4-3 shootout decision.

One of the keys coming into this game was the need to get off to a good start and the Panthers did just that. Just 1:49 into the game, Brian Campbell, who has spent most of this season setting up others for goals, blasted home his first of the year on the power play off a feed from Kris Versteeg (Tomas Fleischmann picked up the secondary assist to extend his point streak to seven games).

The other big key coming into the game was the need for secondary scoring. Tomas Kopecky gave them that at 13:05 of the first when he finished buried a feed from Jack Skille on a 2-on-1 breakaway. Mike Santorelli made it seem like a breakout night when he added his first goal of the season two minutes later to make it 3-0, Cats.

The game changed in favor of the Bolts when Guy Boucher pulled starting goalie Mathieu Garon after Santorelli’s goal in favor of Dwayne Roloson. Roloson wouldn’t allow another puck into his net for the rest of the night, shootout included.

The Panthers opened the second period with much of the same pressure they applied in the first, but couldn’t crack Roloson. On the other end of the ice, starter Jose Theodore was doing his part to keep the Panther rout on until Ryan Malone banked a shot off him to get the Lightning on the board with just under four minutes to play in the second. Before you had a chance to even think the worst, it happened. Steven Stamkos blasted a pass from Matt Gilroy just 1:26 later to make it 3-2 to close out the second.

It’s a scenario Panther fans have far too often in the past. A strong, first period lead that looks shaky at best going into the third. And for Panthers fans, the nightmare scenario was made reality when Teddy Purcell banged home a rebound from a point shot of Eric Brewer (created from a Scottie Upshall turnover) to tie it midway through the third.

In the overtime period, the teams traded good chances, the best of which had Stephen Weiss walking in on Roloson all alone before putting his shot into the goalie’s pad with just seconds left before the shootout.

In the shootout, former Panther Dominic Moore scored in the fourth round of the shootout for the only tally and game-winner. The Panthers weren’t really close with any of their chances and are now 0-for-9 in their all three shootout losses, all on this homestand.

For the Panthers, it’s a horribly disappointing result, and not just for the obvious. When you’ve struggled as long as the Panthers have to draw fans consistently, you have to take advantage of any and just about every situation. Right now, the positive attention in this area is there for the taking. With the NBA lockout, they’re the only active story Monday through Friday. But it’s not going to stay that way unless they: 1. win, and 2, send the home folks happy. This loss dropped the team to 0-0-3 on the homestand (and 2-1-3 on home ice overall), and worse yet, gives two divisional foes (Tampa and Winnipeg) extra points on your ice. We’ve seen how well this area has embraced this team before and this team has the potential to put together an exciting season and even break the playoff drought, but they won’t win back any fans they lost over the years by losing heartbreaking games in front of them when they show up. Not sure what the fix is for coach Kevin Dineen but these guys have to realize that this can’t keep happening over the course of the schedule. Maybe it’s in times like these you find out who your captain is.

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