Photo Source: Brian Blanco/AP

The Day After: Everything Goes Wrong For Panthers In Loss To Tampa

Usually, in this space, I dissect the previous night’s contest, talk about any goals, chances, fights, etc. Today, I’m not going to do that, because last night’s 5-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning was, quite simply, no contest. It was easily the most disappointing game in a season that hasn’t produced too many clunkers. Only a late Shawn Matthias goal (coming from the hustle of Jack Skille) kept this one from being a shutout for Lightning goalie Mathieu Garon. Jacob Markstrom saw his first action since being recalled from San Antonio and it was one he’d be better off forgetting. He was facing a lineup that is powerful and capable of an offensive explosion (as we all saw) but he didn’t get too much help from the five guys in front of him.

Were they tired? Were they mentally spent? Was it just one of those off-nights teams run hit every once-in-a-while in an 82 game schedule? The answer to all three of these questions is probably yes. For the Panthers, Saturday night’s tilt was their fifth game of the week, and the weary legs showed in the final two periods that saw them give up 24 shots over the final two periods with four them being lamp-lighters. The power play, which had much of its success against the Lightning this season, had its chances to help even things out, but went 0-for-6 and looked flat in doing so. The fatigue truly showed in the third period where, down 4-0, they were only able to put five pucks on net.

Despite Saturday’s finish, it shouldn’t diminish what was a great week of hockey for the Florida Panthers. With ten points available for the week, the Cats were able to put seven of them in their back pockets. And I don’t think anyone is going to forget the games against the Pittsburgh Penguins or New Jersey Devils anytime soon. But now comes a critical stretch for the Panthers (but let’s face it, aren’t they all critical?). Tuesday, they face the Carolina Hurricanes for the first time this season. The Canes are a desperate team who have had a pretty rough stretch to start so the Panthers will be seeing a desperate team. After that, they’ll head west for a couple of late starts against the Los Angeles Kings and the San Jose Sharks, two teams that are expected to be contenders in the Western Conference. So, the Panthers need to put this loss behind them and do it quickly or a two game losing streak could hit 4 or 5, which would be a huge setback to a team to that cannot afford to fall behind in the standings.

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