Tampa Bay Lightning: Aggressive play leads to victory over Florida Panthers

(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images)
(Photo by Eliot J. Schechter/NHLI via Getty Images) /

The Tampa Bay Lightning played a solid, aggressive 60 minutes of hockey which led the way for a much-needed 2-1 victory over their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers.

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a rough night, especially defensively, as they fell 5-1 to the New York Islanders on Monday night at the Amalie Arena. Tonight, the Lightning has another challenge at hand. The Bolts made their way to the BB&T Center where they would do battle with their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers.

Things got off to a fast start, as things usually do when these two teams come together. Regrettably, it wasn’t long before the Bolts found themselves in a bit of a pickle. Just over three minutes into the game, the Bolts would find themselves on the Penalty Kill as Mathieu Joseph was sent off for High Sticking. The good news here is the Lightning was able to kill off the penalty and return to full strength unscathed.

Despite the adversity early on, the Lightning would get back on track rather quickly. At 6:42 in the period, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos would pick up his 11th goal of the season to give the Bolts the early lead. The lone assist on the Stamkos goal would go to Alex Killorn, his 15th assist this season.

As the period pressed on, the Lightning had no issues getting shots on goal. Lightning forward Cedric Paquette and his linemates seemed to keep the pressure on Panthers netminder Sergei Bobrovsky, but with the sheer amount of humanity in front of the net, nothing was able to break through. It was a good effort by the Bolts, nonetheless.

When the buzzer sounded to end the first period of play, the Lightning would hold on to their one-goal lead over the Panthers. In terms of statistics, the first period was pretty evenly matched for these two Sunshine State rivals. The Lightning would outshoot the Panthers by one lone shot, going 14-13 through the first 20 minutes of play.

The second period got off to an even quicker start for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Alex Killorn would bring the puck into the Panthers zone before dropping the puck to Anthony Cirelli. Cirelli would fire on the net, but the puck was turned away Bobrovsky. Thankfully, this wasn’t the end of this particular story.

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Alex Killorn was right where he needed to be in order to pick up the rebound and send the puck flying right back at Bobrovsky. This time, the Russian netminder wouldn’t be so lucky. Alex Killorn would pick up his 9th goal of the season with the assists to Anthony Cirelli and Erik Cernak.

The second period was a bit of a contrast from the first. Whereas in the first period, the Lightning and Panthers were separated by a mere shot on goal, the second period saw the Lightning outshoot the Panthers 18-9 for a two-period total of 32-22. Needless to say, the Bolts were making Bobrovsky work for his money this period.

It may have taken two and a half periods of play, but the Panthers started to gain a little bit of offensive pressure in the third period. Panthers forward Brett Connolly would pick up what would’ve been 15th goal of the season after knocking the puck out of the air and past Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Unfortunately for the Panthers, this is not the way things would play out. Originally, the officials would confer after the goal and determined it was a good goal. After taking a closer look at the play, the referees overturned the call on the ice and the goal would come back.

Despite the setback, the Panthers weren’t ready to call it a night just yet. There were less than three minutes left in the game when Panthers Head Coach Joel Quenneville would call Bobrovsky to the bench in order to get an extra attacker on the ice. More often than not, this is a risky, yet necessary move, for a team. This time, the move worked out in the Panthers favor.

With two minutes left in the game, Evgenii Dadonov would pick up his 12th goal of the season. This was one of those right place at the right time type of scenarios. The puck was cruising along the goal line and Vasilevskiy was already extended trying to make a stop on the left side of the goal, leaving the other three-quarters of the goal wide open, creating the opportunity for Dadonov to tap the puck in.

Thankfully for the Lightning, this was the end of the line for the Panthers. When the final buzzer sounded, the Lightning would defeat the Florida Panthers 2-1 and bring home a much-needed two points to the Bolts Nation.

There were a number of highlights in this game. The most obvious of these highlights was how aggressive they were with the puck. It’s no secret the Lightning has struggled defensively this season. As the old saying goes, the best defense is a good offense. If you keep the puck out of your opponent’s hands, they can’t very well score a goal. Registering a total of 48 shots on goal and controlling the puck in the offensive zone is definitely a step in the right direction.

The Lightning definitely has a lot of work to do if they want to make their way back into the playoff picture come April, but if the Lightning can continue to build on the successes of their victory over the Panthers and start stringing some wins together, the Bolts could still find themselves in a decent position.

The Tampa Bay Lightning has a tough couple of games ahead of them this week. On Thursday evening, the Bolts will make their way back to Amalie Arena where they will take on the Boston Bruins. Right now, the Bruins are the number two team in the Eastern Conference with 22 wins to their name.

Then, on Saturday evening, the Lightning will once again take the ice at Amalie Arena. This time, they will be taking on the Number 1 team in the Eastern Conference when they battle captain Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals.

The Lightning currently has two games in hand, so picking up a victory over a divisional opponent like the Bruins will be critical in the Lightning’s venture to climb the standings and get back into the mid-season playoff picture. This will be the second meeting between these two teams this season. The Lightning defeated the Bruins 4-3 in the shootout on October 17 at the TD Garden in Boston.

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As we mentioned previously, the Lightning has a tough road ahead of them. The Bolts will need to be firing on all cylinders if they want to pick up victories in their two remaining games this week. Here’s hoping they can build off the positives they created against the Panthers and make the bad habits a thing of the past.