It wasn’t meant to be on Sunday night for the Florida Panthers, losing their third game this season to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Florida Panthers really struggled to create offense throughout the rest of the first period, with just five shots on goal throughout the first.
There were some good chances, as Mike Hoffman was set up in the slot and Keith Yandle had a big chance with less than a second to go off the feed from Derick Brassard, but both efforts were denied by Louis Domingue.
Domingue would make 23 saves last night, tying a franchise record for his 10th consecutive win, dating all the way back to November 27th.
The Lightning were the more confident team in the first, with loads more possession and speed than the Panthers throughout the first frame. Both teams were playing off less than 24 hours of rest, but the Bolts were just more ready out of the gates.
The second period was one of the most frustrating periods the Panthers had played all season, and not because of the way the team played. The Cats dominated Tampa Bay in the second period.
The Panthers outshot Tampa 17-3 throughout the period, had more power play opportunities, and had Tampa’s lone power play of the 2nd cut out after 30 seconds.
This was the lowest amount of shots on goal the Lightning had in a single period since early November.
Despite that, the Panthers let in two goals on three of the shots on goal they faced. While this is really discouraging to look at as a Panthers fan, this is how teams like the Lightning can contend for cups.
The best teams in any sport find ways to win while playing at their worst, and the Lightning did just that in this game.
The Lightning are well known for their blistering speed throughout their forward core and their sheer ruthless counter-attack, and the Panthers weren’t ready to play against this kind of team after a draining 5-4 win over Washington on last Saturday night.
The Bolts absorbed so much pressure throughout the early stages in the period that at one point, they were being outshot 10-1, but they flung forward and doubled their lead with Steven Stamkos re-directing Anton Stralman’s centering feed.
Nobody on the Panthers got back in time, and Stamkos’ goal was easy pickings; James Reimer was left helpless.
This was Vatrano’s 19th of the season, his 8th in his last 13 games. All of the sudden, though, the Panthers were showing threats of tying the game, going on the power play with a big chance to level the score.
The Panthers’ power play reared its ugly October head, going 0/5. What didn’t help was fresh off this 2nd-period power play ending, Aaron Ekblad was a little too relaxed on the puck.
Whether this was signs of lack of concentration or overall tiredness after a long shift, I’m really not sure how to pinpoint it. What I am sure about is Ryan Callahan breaking into the zone and beating Reimer upstairs to make it 3-1 to Tampa Bay.
That goal was flat-out embarrassing to concede. Within seconds, the Panthers went from on the power play and in control of the puck, to 3-1 down off a giveaway.
James Reimer would be pulled after the conclusion of the 2nd, assumedly benched, with no signs of injury.
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The Lightning did really well to stay in control of the game, staying calm with the puck, keeping shape and focus in the defensive end, and not trying any careless clears to lead to opportunities.
The Lightning wound up scoring a 5th goal. J.T. Miller was held by Yandle trying to prevent an empty-net goal, and Kucherov scored his 2nd of the night on the ensuing penalty, nothing more than just a simple wrist shot from the right flank to add to Kucherov’s ridiculous point tally.
Ultimately, the Panthers just weren’t ready to take on a team as hungry and fast as the Lightning last tonight.
Saturday’s win was a hard-earned exhausting overtime victory and traveling back from Washington D.C. that same night just to play another game the following day seemed to really take a toll on the players.
We can all hope that a long night of rest will rejuvenate the Panthers for the road ahead, with 6 consecutive home games coming up.
The Panthers need to be ready for Tuesday as they take on another team fighting for a playoff spot, the Dallas Stars.