After grabbing a much-deserved win against the Sabres the other night, the Florida Panthers were back at it against their in-state rival.
The Panthers were getting peppered early on, but thanks to Frank Vatrano, none of that really mattered for the time being.
Eleven seconds later and the Panthers struck twice, courtesy of their captain. Aleksander Barkov walked in with enough real-estate to go in on Domingue and squeezed a backhand through his arm. Another goal Domingue would love to have a re-do on.
Everything was perfect in Pantherland until Alex Killorn scored. Moments after Barkov’s goal, Killorn sliced the Panthers’ lead in half off a one-timer, giving the away side some much-needed life.
After a period of play, it was safe to say that despite what was shown on the scoreboard, the Lightning were the far better team in that frame, outshooting their opponents 12-3.
The Panthers quickly realized that they couldn’t go a full sixty minutes playing with that type of effort, so they gradually picked up their play to start the second.
A couple of minutes in and Jonathan Huberdeau regained the Panthers’ two-goal lead. He stripped Mikhail Sergachev of the puck on the blue line and raced down on Louis Domingue, pulling off a silky backhand-forehand move (3-1 FLA).
Things went from bad to worse for Tampa as they gave up two penalties in a span of a minute. This gave the Cats a glorious opportunity (on the 5-on-3) to go three goals ahead, which is exactly what they did.
Everything was looking great from here until the Lightning answered back with two goals to cap off the second.
First, it was Mathieu Joseph who brought the Bolts within two off a feed from Nikita Kucherov. Then, on a man advantage of their own, Kucherov sniped his eleventh of the season to cut the lead in half (4-3).
The Panthers escaped from the second frame, but only just. They had a lot coming at them to start the third, but did they have it in them to hang on?
But from there, the Lightning turned on the afterburners and never looked back. They came close to tying it when Vatrano lost the puck and Matheson blew a tire, but James Reimer had enough in him to deny Cirelli’s shot.
Under the halfway mark in the third and the Bolts finally found an equalizer. Petrovic tried pinning the puck to the side for Reimer to cover, but Paquette pounced on the loose puck and swung a shot on goal which deflected off of Hunt’s skate.
From there, neither team could break the deadlock at either end and overtime was needed to find a winner.
Early in extra time, Frank Vatrano was called for an interference in the Lightning’s zone, sending the Bolts to a crucial power play opportunity to grab the extra point.
The Panthers’ penalty killing unit did a great job of keeping the puck out of their zone, even causing a scare down in the Bolts’ end.
Aaron Ekblad pulled off a toe-drag shorthanded and wired a quick snapshot on goal. Domingue flashed the pad brilliantly and kept his side in play.
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Personally, this was a tough game to swallow due to the fact that a three-goal lead was blown. Against teams like the Tampa Bay Lightning, you just can’t let your foot off the gas pedal, which is exactly what the Cats did.
The call on Vatrano was definitely iffy, considering that Alex Killorn interfered with Mike Matheson earlier in the overtime frame.
In all likelihood, the refs shouldn’t call one over the other, but the Panthers really didn’t help themselves at all by getting pinned in their own end for good chunks of the game.
The defense, which happened to play well against Buffalo two nights ago, was nowhere to be found. Getting pucks out was like watching a Grad student perform rocket science.
It’s safe to say that if it wasn’t for James Reimer – who made some key saves to keep the Panthers in it – the score could’ve gotten ugly fast.
Needless to say, however, but the D core definitely needs a shakeup, because what’s in place right now simply isn’t working and won’t be sustainable from here to the end of the season.
Most importantly, if the Cats want to climb the standings and get back to their winning ways, they’re going to have to tighten up defensively and minimize the number of scoring chances they are giving to their opponent.
Your Florida Panthers are back in action on Tuesday, Dec. 4th against the Boston Bruins at 7. P.M. at home. Be sure to tune in live as live coverage (including GIFs) will be available via our Twitter page.