FLORIDA PANTHERS: 12-6-4 (28 PTS.) vs. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING: 10-9-2 (22 PTS.)
GAME TIME: 7:00 P.M. Eastern
OPPOSITION SITE: BOLTS BY THE BAY
The rivalry between these two teams will see them play game five against each other in the young season tonight in the second game of back to backs this Thanksgiving holiday weekend. The games have certainly provided thrills and have also provided a glut of “extra” hockey. Matter of fact six of the past nine games the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning have played against each other have been decided in overtime.
The Panthers had one the first two games of the season including the 7-4 game in Tampa which saw the Panthers create most of their offense on the power play. The last two games, both decided by one goal have been won by the Lightning, including their come from behind victory lat night. The Lightning caused fits for Florida all night due to the trapping style that coach Guy Boucher has them playing. Kris Versteeg had this to say after last night’s loss:
“Their system is sit five guys back behind the blue line so it’s not a fun game to watch, the Lightning when they’re playing anyone ever,” Florida left wing Kris Versteeg(notes) said. “It’s how they play, they’ve played that system for two years now.”
The winning goal last night was scored by Steven Stamkos who now has six goals and five assists in his last nine games, and was named the games first star. Marty St. Louis had two helpers on the night as the other Tampa goal was scored by Vincent Lecavalier.
The loss for Florida stopped their three game winning streak, but still provided them with seven out of eight possible points on their four game home stand. They sit currently second in the Eastern Conference with 28 points, and are first in the Southeast division. Even though they are winning at an impressive clip, the scoring from other than the top line of Weiss, Versteeg and Flash, along with a bomb or two from Jason Garrison at the blueline is non existent. The other nine forward have to find a way to get on the scoreboard, as the top three can”t be expected to carry the team all season long. Mike Santorelli, Marco Sturm and Sean Bergenheim are among three players who were expected to help with the offence, but have a combined six goals on the season so far.
Coach Kevin Dineen has indicated that Jacob Markstrom would start one of these two games, and as of this typing it’s still unknown if that will ring true. Jose Theodore has played extremely well, and you certainly can’t blame him for last night’s loss, but with a three game road trip coming up, it might make sense to give the Alien (Markstrom) a start.
* Vincent Lecavalier has 10 goals this season with four being game winners.
* Steven Stamkos and Lecavalier rank among the top scoring pairs in the NHL with 22 combined goals, tying them with Florida’s pair of Tomas Fleischman and Kris Versteeg.
* The Panthers record in Tampa is 23-19-6-2.
* Prior to the goal by Stamkos last night, the Panthers had killed off 21 consecutive power play chances against them.
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