Approaching their last game before the Christmas Break, the Florida Panthers were coming in confident, looking to come away with two points.
The Tampa Bay Lightning caught the Florida Panthers by surprise and hit them hard with pressure early, preventing the Cats from exiting their zone. Goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky was expected to come up big early, and he did by stopping Tampa’s early chances.
After a rough and frustrating outing, the Cats escaped down by three. In a game where they need a win to stay afloat with their opponents in the Atlantic, the Panthers were off to a rugged start.
The Panthers started the second on the power play but were rewarded a two-man advantage after the Lightning were called with too many men on the ice. This time, the Cats converted.
As the Panthers were building momentum, they got caught with a careless mistake as Anton Stralman was forced to take a seat for a trip. The Lightning wasted no time on the man advantage, with Alex Killorn taking care of business by taking out the trash to regain Tampa’s three-goal lead.
Not long after, Nikita Kucherov blew the game out of the water by joining on the scoring act, sniping a shot past Bobrovsky (on the power play) to extend the lead to four (5-1).
The Cats had a couple of power-play opportunities to try and make this game more respectful but were unable to set up in the Lightning’s end. The Bolts would take their commanding 5-1 lead into the dressing room after forty minutes of play.
In the third, Tampa sat back with a cushioned lead, preventing the Panthers from entering their zone and generating any scoring chances.
At the other end of the ice, the Lightning were toying with the Cats at times, playing a little game of keep-away which made the Panthers look foolish.
A scare occurred midway through the period after Anton Stralman took a hard shot to the helmet, which left a good-sized dent in his helmet, along with a large puddle of blood on the ice. He would later return to the bench in the final few minutes of the period.
Tampa would close out the game with another goal through Victor Hedman, going on to trample the Panthers by a score of 6-1.
In all fairness, this was the deserved result for the Florida Panthers – based on their effort. Not too many players came to play tonight, which ultimately showed on the scoreboard. Bobrovsky was completely left to dry on a number of plays, which the blame shouldn’t be placed on him given these circumstances.
The Christmas Break will give the Cats a chance to recharge the batteries and to regroup both mentally and physically. Your Panthers are back in action on Saturday, December. 28 against the Detroit Red Wings at 7 P.M.
To those who celebrate, I – on behalf of all of us at The Rat Trick – want to wish you and your family a very Merry Christmas!