Panthers Special Teams Electrify Lightning


If you were watching the Miami Dolphins last night, you had the wrong game on.  When you see your hockey team score more goals (7) than your football team scores points (Dolphins lost 24-6), something had to be special.  And for the Florida Panthers Monday night was a special one indeed.  An area that was troublesome all season long last year had it’s coming out party last night as the power play unit scored 5, yes 5 power play goals, against what appears to be a frustrated Tampa Bay Lightning team.

Last year the Florida Panthers had the fewest goals with the man advantage (35), and that was a costly season long issue.  After acquiring the players that they did this offseason, something told you things would be different.  Kris Versteeg scored two VerBeauty goals and had two assists, Stephen Weiss also had two and two while leading the club with six shots, and Brian Campbell had four assists for a total of seven on the season.  Note that all four of Campbell’s helpers were on the power play.  Weiss was named the number one star of the night by Puck Daddy.

The game which was the home opener for Tampa in their newly renovated arena, had a sloppy start in the beginning.  Neither team looked as though they wanted to play much defence as the first period ended in a 2-2 tie.  An entertaining period that featured a wrestling match between Erik Gudbranson (Big G) and Ryan Malone which I’d call a draw, also had what seemed to be a parade to the penalty box, which continued throughout the game.  The Panthers took complete advantage of it.  Where last year the frustration of not scoring on their first attempt would have carried through the balance of the game, last night they fought through and were able to pounce on their chances.  A sloppy first period for Florida was quickly cleaned up at intermission and things settled down for them the rest of the way.

The second period ended with the Panthers leading 4-3 with the key moment in that frame coming when Sean Bergenheim scored a shorthanded goal on a breakaway giving Florida a 4-2 lead.  Tampa however kept pushing as Vinny Lecavalier scored his second of the year with under four minutes left cutting the lead to one.  Florida however did their own pushing back and showed a great deal of character by not folding their tent.  Three third period goals, two on the power play and the night would be considered a huge success.  Coach Kevin Dineen had these remarks after the game:

"“We’re slowly picking away, and tonight it explodes,” Florida coach Kevin Dineen said. “We’d love to take credit for all our schemes, but there was a lot of high-end talent out there. They weren’t the pretty plays. They were making real quality plays, and we were getting the puck at the net. That was the difference.”"

Having held Tampa sniper Steven Stamkos scoreless in Saturday night’s contest, you knew that wouldn’t last as he was left wide open near his favourite by the faceoff circle and ripped a one timer to bring Tampa within one, but the Panthers struck quickly scoring two goals in less than a minute and that was pretty much it.

Words can’t describe what we are seeing on the ice so far this season.  We all know it’s only our fourth game, but to be 3-1-0, and to have played as well as we have so early on with the new personalities is gratifying.  You can’t help but be a little giddy about the results.  Tampa on the other hand doesn’t feel so pleased with their start as Steven Stamkos had this to say:

"“Obviously, we’re not happy,” Stamkos said. “I wouldn’t say we’re in a panic mode, but we’re worried. This isn’t the start we wanted. We’re taking way too many penalties.”"

Each game we seem to see something different and something that we aren’t quite used to.  The mere fact that we keep pushing and pushing, and not giving up is refreshing.  No longer are we going into the third period watching the game with one eye closed.  Now we seem to be watching sitting on the edge of our seat.  That’s a view I think we can get used to.

It’s also nice to be noticed by others.  Pro Hockey Talk.

Here’s the TSN game recap, and make sure you visit our opposition site Bolts By The Bay.

As always thank you for reading.  We welcome your comments.

Pregame for tonight coming later today.  Don’t forget our first Rat Trick Road Watch Party.

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