In a hard fought, closely contested game, the Tampa Bay Lightning came back from two one-goal deficits to tie. It wasn’t enough though as the Bolts fell to the Florida Panthers in a shootout by a final score of 3-2.
Just over 10 minutes into the game Florida broke a scoreless tie when Ed Jovanovski’s shot from the point during a Panther power play deflected off a couple Lightning defenders and past Lightning goaltender Mathieu Garon.
Credit Garon however for keeping his composure, and his team in the game, in only his second start of the season as he stoned many Panthers, keeping things 1-0 until the Bolts found a spark midway through the second period.
The Bolts got their spark after the Lightning’s Steve Downie and the Panthers Erik Gudbranson fought just over 12 and a half minutes into the second period. Both players were given two minute minors (Gudbranson for instigating, Downie for unsportsmanlike conduct), five minutes for fighting and a 10 minute misconduct.
It seemed so small but it got the Bolts moving in the right direction, definitely a good sign for a team coming off a 5-1 loss to the New York Islanders Thursday night.
In the third period we began to see what this Lightning team is capable of when they didn’t fold, instead coming back to tie twice in an eight and a half minute span late in the period.
Marc-Andre Bergeron, fresh off celebrating a birthday this past Thursday, got his first goal and team-leading fourth point of the season with just under 10 minutes remaining in the game when his shot from the right point beat Florida goaltender Jose Theodore. This tied the game at one apiece.
Approximately eight minutes later, with Pavel Kubina off for hooking, Kris Versteeg took a cross-ice pass from Dmitry Kulikov and shot it into the open side of the net, making it 2-1 Panthers.
Credit the Lightning though. They did not panic and it paid off huge, with Bergeron scoring his second goal of the night, once again from the point, just 30 seconds after Versteeg scored. From there, the Lightning had numerous opportunities but Theodore shut the door, making some tremendous saves.
In overtime the Lightning again controlled the pace, outshooting the Panthers by a large margin, but Theodore stood tall in net, thus sending us to a shootout.
Lightning head coach Guy Boucher elected to send his “Big 3″ of Marty St. Louis, Steven Stamkos and Vinny Lecavalier out to shoot first while Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen chose to send Kris Versteeg, Marcel Goc and Tomas Fleischmann out to shoot first.
In round 1 Garon easily stopped Versteeg and Theodore had no problem stopping St. Louis while in round 2 Marcel Goc was just able to get the puck underneath Garon and Theodore was able to stone Stamkos, who tried his spin-o-rama move that fooled Montreal’s Carey Price last season. That meant it all came down to the final shooter for each team. Fleischmann shot high while falling and Theodore was just able to stop Lecavalier, preserving the win and two points for the Panthers.
The Lightning, however, have to be pleased that they earned a point and are now headed home for the first time this season. They finished their season-high five game road trip with a record of 1-2-2, earning them four of a possible 10 points; not exactly what they wanted but not that awful either.
The Bolts now look toward opening their home season against these same Panthers Monday night, October 17th, inside a newly renovated St. Pete Times Forum.