After closing out the weekend with a couple of wins, the Florida Panthers were looking to extend their win streak to three games, taking on their in-state rivals Tampa Bay.
The Florida Panthers got off to a strong start but the Lightning matched that intensity from the get-go. Florida managed to draw the game’s first penalty as Mathieu Joseph took a seat for high-sticking.
The Bolts’ PK unit did a good job keeping the Panthers’ shooters to the outside, limiting their open looks and chances altogether. The Cats found it hard to set up and could barely string a pass together given the intensity that the Lightning PKers had.
Not long after Joseph’s penalty and the Lightning struck first through Steven Stamkos – who appeared to trip Mike Matheson in a battle for the puck, followed by skating around an aggressive Sergei Bobrovsky and slotting the puck home into the empty cage.
The Panthers upped their momentum after they conceded and were rewarded with another power-play opportunity. Their best chance came when Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau both connected at the door-side of Andrei Vasilevskiy’s net, with Huberdeau being stoned by one of Vasilevskiy’s pad saves.
But unfortunately, like their previous power play, the Cats couldn’t generate anything meaningful apart from the Huberdeau chance., falling 0/2 on the man advantage. Florida would head to the locker room down by a goal after twenty minutes of play.
In the second, Tampa Bay came storming out of the gates early on, pushing hard for a two-goal cushion. They found it through Alex Killorn – who pounced on a loose rebound given up by Bobrovsky, doubling the Bolts’ lead early on in the second.
Florida was fortunate enough to receive their third power play of the game after Palat carelessly interfered with Bobrovsky in his net. Even on their third attempt, the Panthers couldn’t find the back of the net, experiencing nothing but blocked shots or easy saves by the steady Vasilevskiy.
The Bolts continued to press with aggressiveness, even while a man short. This style of play ended up leading them to their first power play of the game after Anthony Cirelli drew a holding call on Jonathan Huberdeau.
Night and day is the perfect phrase to compare Tampa’s power play to Florida’s as they created a shooting galley in front of Bobrovsky’s crease. Luckily for Florida, Bobrovsky stood tall and denied every shot that came his way, no matter how difficult.
The Lightning continued to pour the pressure onto the Cats but were unable to find a third thanks to Bobrovsky’s solid play. The two sides would head to the dressing room after forty minutes, with Tampa up by two after a convincing second period.
In the final frame, the Bolts were handed a sudden power play after Keith Yandle was called for a trip. Like the previous one, the Lightning made a shooting gallery out of this one, working Bobrovsky to full effect. Luckily again, the Panthers had their netminder to count on as he turned aside every shot, keeping the deficit at two goals.
Tampa’s dominance continued as they hemmed the Panthers in their own end for a solid minute and a half. Regardless of what line was out there, the Cats just couldn’t get the puck out and the Lightning’s puck movement was just too much to handle. Barely, the Panthers survived the storm.
Just over the halfway mark in the third and the Lightning limited the Panthers to just two shots on goal, completely shutting down their entire forward group, especially their top two lines.
In what appeared to be their first goal of the night was eventually turned away. Brett Connolly’s tip – which was originally ruled as a good goal – was overturned after video review. Connolly’s stick appeared to be over the crossbar, ruling no goal on the play.
That didn’t stop the Panthers from pushing until the very end and they found their first of the night through Evgenii Dadonov who poked home the loose puck that was sitting on the goal line to bring the Panthers within one.
Unfortunately, there just wasn’t enough time for the Cats to complete the comeback as they fell short to the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 2-1.
In all fairness, this result was the fair outcome given the heavy reliance that Florida had on Bobrovsky throughout the game. Without his solid play, the game would’ve been out of reach from the start of the second period.
Your Panthers are back in action on Thursday, December. 12 @ 7 P.M. against the New York Islanders, looking to get back in the win column.