If there is anything that you can take out of the Florida Panthers 5-4 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning it is that there is something buried deep underneath the skin of a team that has posted a 24-35-7 record (and has collected only 55-of a possible 132 points this year). It is an edge to their game, as well as a second gear that would allow them to play with anyone.
The problem is they can’t seem to tap into that for an entire 60-minutes of hockey, had they, they would have escaped with two points and avoided getting swept by the Lightning for the first time in franchise history.
Starting fast the Panthers opened up the scoring barely two minutes into the game as Tomas Fleischmann scored his seventh of the season – a power play goal – with Dmitry Kulikov and Nick Bjugstad picking up the assist.
Along with jumping out and scoring right away, the Panthers also showed an edge physically – especially after the whistle – in which both teams would engage in some post-whistle activities. When a team is down and out, it is good to see this kind of fight in them, shows they haven’t packed it in yet this season.
Even after Sami Salo tied the game, the Panthers didn’t let it faze them as they literally got right back on the horse and scored 12-seconds later. Quinton Howden would pick up his first NHL goal to put the Panthers back up by one.
Going into the first intermission with the score at 2-2 (Mike Kostka tied it back up almost three minutes later), the Panthers were flying high and hanging with a team that is in the playoff hunt but once the teams took the ice for the second, it was like it was a different team playing.
They didn’t have an edge, they weren’t flying around the ice. Tampa Bay killed an early penalty taken by Radko Gudas and used that to take over the period. They would outshoot Florida 13-5 and take a 4-2 lead with goals from Ryan Callahan (his first since the trade) and Tyler Johnson.
A Steven Stamkos goal was the nail in the coffin for the Panthers but not before that team from the first period decided to make things interesting. Scottie Upshall scored his 12th of the season with just a little over a minute left in the game.
Things got real interesting when Brandon Pirri scored with less than 30-seconds left to bring the Panthers within one, but one is as close as they would get as they could not tie the game up.
The hardest thing to do in the NHL is to remain consistent. Sidney Crosby is pulling away from the pack in the scoring title not because he has a lot of four and five point games – but because he is constantly scoring a point or two here and there.
As the Panthers grow and individuals and as a team, consistency will be the biggest determining factor on just how good they will become. As we saw in last night’s game, even if you are good two-thirds of the game – the one period you don’t will cost you each and every time.
Bjugstad Stays Hot
Nick Bjugstad continued his ascension to the top of the Panthers’ scoring charts, as he sits behind only Upshall for the most points on the team. The only reason Bjugstad isn’t tied for the team lead after recording two more assist and extending his scoring streak to four games? He assisted on Upshall’s goal, adding another point to his totals.
The former Minnesota Golden Gopher has been the best player on the Panthers recently, scoring nine points in his last ten games – being elevated to the team’s top line with Alexsander Barkov out with an injury.
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