Look at it this way Panthers fans, at least as the Tampa Bay Lightning heats up over the second half of the season, they can beat up on your division rivals instead of the your Florida Panthers. It was little consolation though on Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum as the Cats closed out their 6 game season series with the Bolts with a 6-3 loss. After winning the first two games of this season, the Cats dropped the last four to finish at 2-2-2 for the campaign. The Bolts have been the only bump in the road for the Panthers in the Southeast division as they’ve gone 7-1-1 against everyone else.
Nate Thompson set the tone for Tampa early with a breakaway goal just 1:37 into the game. However, Tomas Fleischmann would level things up just 2:17 later when he fired a wrister past Mathieu Garon off a a great pass from Kris Versteeg.
For a team playing its third game in four nights, the Panthers showed some great jump throughout the first period. However, a lot that jump would stay in the dressing room for the early part of the second period. Goals from Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St Louis in the first five minutes of the period put the Cats behind the eight ball early. Mikael Samuelsson would get one back on a rebound to pull within one. Moments later, Versteeg would clank what would have been the equalizer off the post. Steven Stamkos would put the lead back to two moments later when he capitalized off of yet another Panthers turnover to make it 4-2. St Louis would add his second a few minutes later to effectively put the game away despite a late period goal from Sean Bergenheim.
Marty St Louis would add an empty netter deeo in the third in his 900th game played to close out the game and the season series for the in-state rivals. The Panthers had a couple of power play opportunities in the period but couldn’t take close the gap despite some good chances and some positive momentum that came from Bergenheim’s late goal in the second.
And with that, the division lead is back to one point as the Washington Capitals won in Montreal on Saturday. Super Bowl Sunday will find the Panthers scoreboard watching as the Caps will head to Boston to face the champs and the Winnipeg Jets will get their crack at the Habs. No matter what happens in Boston on Sunday, Tuesday’s game in Washington will be for first place. Just a question of whether it will be the Panthers trying to extend their lead or trying to regain it.
Thanks for reading! Any and all comments are greatly appreciated.
Please visit our main NHL page: Too Many Men On The Site
Want to talk more hockey? Then you can follow The Rat Pack on Twitter! Me: @davidlasster, Frank Rekas: @TheRatTrick Josh Luecht: @joshluecht, Patrick McLaughlin: @PatrickRattrick Scott Mullin @GreatScottsman, David Rodriguez @davidbub_2, Paige Lewis @PeejLewis, Adam Reid @AdamReid_ and Gabby Kiger @gabbykiger. Also, please visit our Facebook Fan Page and like us! Share comments, photos, anything Panthers related!