The Tampa Bay Lightning rallied in the third period, but it wasn’t enough to beat the Florida Panthers who picked up their first regular-season win over the Bolts in the last eight games.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were successful in their first contest of the season as they defeated the Florida Panthers 5-2 on Thursday night in the Lightning’s Home Opener. Unfortunately, there is no rest for the wicked and the Lightning were back at it again tonight. Same opponent, different venue.
The Lightning took the long trek down I-75 to the BB&T Center in Sunrise to kick off their back-to-back weekend series with yet another battle against their in-state rivals. The question at hand was would the Bolts be as successful in the second contest of the season as they were in the first?
Tonight’s matchup between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers was vastly different than the contest fans saw on Thursday night. There were a lot of good scoring chances on both sides of the ice, but through the halfway point in the first period, neither team had put the puck in the back of the net.
These two teams would travel the same path in the back half of the period as they did in the first half. When the buzzer would sound to end the first period of play, both teams would have no goals to their name.
In a welcome change from Thursday night’s contest, the Lightning led the Panthers in shots on goal through the first 20 minutes of play 10-8. Another area the Bolts would dominate was the Faceoff Circle. The Lightning definitely held it down in the Faceoff Circle, outshining the Panthers 63-38 in the first period.
Another glaring difference between tonight’s contest and the one fans witnessed on Thursday night is the sheer lack of penalties. Granted, the Lightning held the sole penalty in the first period on Thursday as Mikhail Sergachev was sent to the sin bin for Tripping against Mike Hoffman, but it’s still odd to see a fairly uneventful period of hockey in terms of penalties.
The Lightning found themselves with an excellent scoring chance in the early moments of the second period. Nikita Kucherov set up Erik Cernak, who unleashed one heck of a shot, but he was ultimately robbed by Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky.
The first penalty of the game would finally come in the second period. Regrettably, it would come at the expense of the Lightning. The Bolts would end up with a Bench Minor for Too Many Men on the Ice. The penalty would be served by Pat Maroon.
Ironically enough, it may have been the Panthers Power Play, but it was the Lightning who brought the offense. Ondrej Palat had an excellent opportunity in front of the net, but he was caught on the final approach. Then, Victor Hedman who let loose a bomb that would ultimately get turned away.
As these two teams approached the halfway point in the second period and interesting stat came into play. The Lightning had held the Panthers to a single shot on goal in the first 10 minutes of the second. This is crazy to think about considering the Panthers had the man advantage moments earlier.
Just over a minute after the Lightning would kill the bench minor for Too Many Men, the Bolts would find themselves on the Penalty Kill once again. This time it would be Mathieu Joseph who would make his way to the box for Hooking.
Regrettably, the Panthers would make the Lightning pay for their transgression this time. Jonathan Huberdeau would beautifully set up Mike Hoffman who would ultimately beat Andrei Vasilevskiy and pick up the first goal of the game.
Things would go from bad to worse as the period progressed. Of course, by progression, we mean the next couple of seconds. Almost immediately after the Panthers capitalized on the penalty to Joseph, the Lightning would be headed back to the Penalty Kill yet again as Anthony Cirelli was sent off for High Sticking.
History repeated itself as Mike Hoffman capitalized on the penalty yet again. Just when you thought things couldn’t possibly get any more out of hand, well…that’s exactly what happened. A little over a minute after Hoffman’s second goal of the night, the Panthers would extend their lead to three with a goal from Noel Acciari.
If there is anything Lightning fans hoped the team learned after the second period is was to stay as far as humanly possible from the penalty box. Whether or not the Lightning would be able to bring this theory into fruition was yet to be seen at this point.
Things would finally start to turn around for the Lightning in the later minutes of the second period. The Lightning fourth line would put in the hard work as Pat Maroon fired off a heck of a shot, but it was denied in front of the net. Luke Witkowski would dig deep for the rebound, which was tapped in by Gemel Smith to get the Bolts on the board. This was Smith’s first goal as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
When the buzzer would sound to end the second period, the Lightning would trail the Panthers 3-1. In stark contrast to the first period of play, the Panthers would outshoot the Bolts 8-14 in the second for a two-period total of 18-22 in favor of the Panthers. Things would even out in the Faceoff Circle as well. The Bolts and Panthers would split the Faceoff Circle right down the middle through two.
The most important thing the Lightning could carry over into the third period would be momentum. The Bolts finished the second period strong with momentum swiftly on their side. They would need to hit the ice for the third with this same momentum at their backs if they wanted to regain control of the game.
Regrettably, the Lightning’s momentum swing was incredibly short-lived. Just 17 seconds into the third period, Mike Hoffman would complete the Hat Trick, beating Vasilevskiy for the third time tonight and extending the Panthers lead over the Lightning to 4-1.
Things reached a boiling point between these two teams around the five-minute mark in the period. The Lightning started to bring some serious offense in front of Bobrovsky. There were a lot of sticks in front of the net and eventually things escalated to blows.
Gemel Smith seemed was incensed at this point, which ended with him and Mike Hoffman coming to blows. Both Smith and Hoffman would get penalties for Roughing. The question now is whether this was the spark the Lightning needed in order to get their heads back in the game.
Less than a minute after the penalties to Smith and Hoffman, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos would pick up his first goal of the season with assists to Victor Hedman and Kevin Shattenkirk. The Lightning definitely had more work to be done at this point, but this was definitely a step in the right direction.
The Tampa Bay Lightning would get their very first power play of the game at 7:16 in the third period as Aaron Ekblad would head off for Tripping. While the Panthers would ultimately kill the penalty, the Lightning would do some pretty solid things with the man advantage.
Nikita Kucherov had an excellent scoring opportunity just before the end of the man advantage but was absolutely robbed by Bobrovsky. While the play may not have added to the scoresheet, it definitely reignited the Lightning. At this point, there was still plenty of time on the clock to get back in the game.
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The Lightning would continue to dig for opportunities to get back in the game. As had been par for the course throughout the game, Sergei Bobrovsky would absolutely rob Mathieu Joseph as he powered his way in front of the net. Fortunately for the Bolts, this would only work once.
The next time Joseph would get in front of the net, he would make this a one-goal game, picking up his first goal of the season. The assists on the Joseph goal would go to Yanni Gourde and Carter Verhaeghe.
The Bolts would continue to battle as the final minutes ticked off the clock. Regrettably, this would be a classic case of too little, too late.
When the buzzer sounded to end the game, the Panthers would break a two-season losing streak by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in their Home Opener.
There were a lot of good things the Lightning can take away from this loss. The Bolts fourth line played really well and did all they could to get the Lightning back into the game. Also, some of the Lightning’s new faces finally got their names on the scoresheet like Gemel Smith and Carter Verhaeghe.
Unfortunately, what was ultimately the agent of the Lightning’s demise tonight was the penalty kill. The Lightning seemed to fall into old habits by not only taking unnecessary penalties but taking them at the absolute worst possible time. You know…like three in a row in the second period.
If the Lightning is going to prevent this from transforming from a single loss to a losing streak tomorrow afternoon in Carolina, the Bolts simply must figure out a way to stay out of the box. As we have said on many occasions, you can only leave the door open for so long before someone slams it in your face. This is exactly what the Florida Panthers did tonight.
The Lightning has little to no time to dwell on tonight’s loss. Less than 24 hours from now, the Lightning will make their way into the PNC Arena where they will take on the Carolina Hurricanes. The Hurricanes also played tonight where they defeated the Washington Capitals 3-2 in overtime in DC.
While it could be argued the Hurricanes have momentum on their side due to their overtime victory over the Caps, these two teams will be pretty evenly matched. Both teams played on the road and both teams will have less than 24 hours to prepare for the next battle. At this point, it’s anybody’s game. Welcome to hockey season!