The Florida Panthers glorious return from a successful road trip did not go as planned tonight as the team fell flat in a 6-1 thrashing at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning. As if the loss was not bad enough, the Panthers took another shot when Scottie Upshall left the first period with an upper-body injury. Florida was already playing without Erik Gudbranson who underwent surgery to repair an injury to his orbital bone that he sustained in the Panthers 5-2 loss against the Jets on Friday.
For those of you wondering, the orbital bone is the bone that surrounds the eye socket. Gudbranson will miss about 2-4 weeks, according to George Richards. Alex Petrovic was called up to replace Gudbranson and the 21-year-old logged 15:35 of ice time tonight against Tampa. Petrovic finished the game with a zero +/- and for what its worth he was one of the few Panthers to not finish in the minus.
Despite the lopsided finish, the game was very much undecided through the first twenty minutes. The Panthers jumped out to a lead at 18:56 into the first when Sean Bergenheim beat Tampa goaltender Ben Bishop on the power play. The goal was the result of a Tampa turnover in the defensive zone that Aleksander Barkov gathered and dished to Bergenheim who fired off a quick shot for his fifth goal of the year.
The lead was short-lived, 19 seconds to be exact as the Panthers were unable to escape the first period with the 1-0 lead. The Lightning quenched any Panther momentum that may have been brewing when Alexander Killorn punched home a rebound to tie the game at 19:15 into the first period.
From there it was all Tampa. The Lightning scored three goals in the second, including one from Valtteri Filppula on a Tampa 5-on-3 that put the Bolts up 3-1. The Lightning received two goals from J.T. Brown in the third to stretch their lead to the final score of 6-1. All-in-all, the Bolts fired 36 shots at Scott Clemmensen who managed 30 saves but took the loss thus snapping his four game win streak.
The Panthers put up 29 shots on Ben Bishop but overall the team looked flat. Peter Horachek was understandably not happy with his team as they suffered the worst loss of his head coaching tenure.
“The guys didn’t really have a lot of push-back.” Horachek said of the game, “It was probably the worst game since I’ve been here for sure.”
The loss assures the Bolts of the season series victory over the Panthers. Tampa has beaten the Panthers in all three of their match-ups this season and they have outscored Florida in regulation to the tune of 16-6. The Panthers have now lost two games in a row by a combined score of 11-3. The losing streak comes right on the heels of a five game win streak that saw the Panthers battle their way back into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.
The Panthers will have a four day break before their next game Saturday at home against the Detroit Red Wings.