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Horrible loss for Lightning to the Panthers

There are no words for this travesty. Tonight the Tampa Bay Lightning hosted the cross-state Florida Panthers. The final score of 9-2, Panthers over the Lightning. Don’t fool yourself, the game wasn’t even that close. The hype for this game was palpable. The hot Tampa Bay Lightning, riding a three game winning streak host the Florida Panthers, winners of their last four games. Should have made for a great Battle for Florida. The Panthers held first place for a couple days in the Atlantic Division until Boston won earlier in the afternoon. The Lightning are in third place in the division and are working to keep that spot as they are one point ahead of Toronto who host the Anaheim Ducks tonight. This time of year the implications of every game go beyond just the game.

Tonight’s battle between these interstate rivals featured a battle of Russian goalies. Andrei Vasilevskiy for the Lightning and Sergei Bobrosky for the Panthers. Nick Paul was a game time decision and was in the lineup but Tanner Jeannot is still out for Tampa. 

Opening Bell

A full 23 seconds into this game, the Lightning sent the first message of the game. Coming out of their zone, Anthony Cirelli lifted a backhand saucer pass right on the tape of Brandon Hagel. Hagel wasted no time sliding that puck through the five hole of Bobrovsky to open the scoring tonight. 

For the next few minutes of the game, the amount of hits and blocked shots was more than noticeable. Both teams were challenging every puck possession. Just when it seemed we were going to see a defensive battle tonight, Florida scored to tie the game. After a faceoff win by the Panthers, Brandon Montour slapped a shot from the point. The puck was clearly wide but hit the right thigh of Lightning defenseman Emil Lilleberg and went past Vasilevskiy. The game is knotted at one at this point. 

After that tying goal, the game went back to more hits, more blocked shots but the Panthers seemed to be controlling the play. About five minutes of this give and take before the next goal was scored. The goal by Sam Bennett was a direct result of the inability by the Lightning to get the puck cleanly out of their zone. So, the score is now 2-1 Florida in this game. 

Let The Implosion Begin

Who knew with more than seven minutes left in the first period, this was the best we’d see of the Lightning tonight. There was a fight between Austin Watson of the Lightning facing off against Jonah Gadjovich of the Panthers. A vertical tussle aptly describes this fight. No real punches were thrown, just a lot of bear hugs before the refs broke it up and sent the two combatants to the penalty box. 

We still had a 2-1 game. One that featured a lot of good defensive stances from both teams. Then in the last three minutes of the period, the roof caved in. Badly. Kevin Stenlund snapped a shot past Vasilevskiy to make it 3-1, Florida. Despite some traffic in front, Vasilevskiy should have stopped this shot. Less than a minute later, Gustav Forsling shot from the point as former Lightning Carter Verhaege tipped Vasilevskiy’s glove. The puck dribbled in past the Tampa netminder and Florida now enjoyed a 4-1 lead in the final minute of the first period. The early Hagel goal was now a distant memory.

Stop The Bleeding

As the second period began, the Panthers had a small power play. They took complete advantage of it as Matthew Tkachuk scored a goal. As the Panthers were passing the puck around with the extra man, Tkachuk almost behind the net, attempted a pass through the blue paint. The puck hit Erik Cernak and went past Vasilevskiy. At this point, the only saving grace for Tampa is that there is still 19 minutes remaining in the second period but Florida does have a four goal lead at 5-1. 

Less than a minute later, the Panthers had another power play and on a shot from the point, Tkachuk tipped in goal number six for the visitors. At least there are still 18 minutes….oh, nevermind. This is a complete cluster. At this point the Lightning are only playing for pride. The game was clearly lost with more than half a game left to play. 

The good news for the Lightning is they didn’t allow another Panthers goal in the rest of the second period. The bad news is they couldn’t score one themselves.

Burn The Tape

Without a doubt, Jon Cooper and the rest of the coaching staff had already decided to burn the tape of this game. Can’t blame them, through two periods they were down five goals and looking like they had no answers for their opponents. Vasilevskiy was pulled from the game and Jonas Johansson came in for the third period. 

Sure enough more daggers from the Panthers were coming. They smelled the blood in the water and a minute into the final period, former Lightning Carter Verhaege scored making it 7-1. Frankly, I was surprised most Lightning fans didn’t head for the exits in droves. Another failed attempt on the part of the Lightning to successfully get the puck out of their zone led to this Panther goal. This game cannot get any worse. Boy was that wrong. 

Another minute later, another Florida power play opportunity, another Panther goal. This time Bennett lifted a rebound over Johansson’s shoulder to bring a snowman down on the Lightning. Florida was up 8-1. The scoring by the Panthers wasn’t over. Verhaege scored on a rebound in the low slot. It was now 9-1 Florida and for the Lightning, the clock couldn’t tick away fast enough. 

Yes, the Lightning scored a goal. Brayden Point took the puck right to the blue paint in front of Bobrovsky and made a nifty backhand shot to close out the game’s scoring. Final score was an embarrassing 9-2 loss for the Lightning. 

Three Stars 

  1. Sam Bennett – 2 goals and 2 assists
  2. Matthew Tkachuk – 2 goals and 2 assists
  3. Carter Verhaege – 2 goals and 1 assist

What’s Next

After the game tape of tonight is burned into a pile of ashes, the Lightning host the Ottawa Senators at Amalie Arena on Monday night. Puck drop scheduled for 7:00 pm.

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