Fresh off of a home loss to the New York Islanders, the Tampa Bay Lightning traveled to Sunrise looking for a much-needed two points against the Florida Panthers. In a departure from the norm, this game between the Bolts and Cats was low-scoring with the goaltenders starring. Andrei Vasilevskiy got the upper hand, but it was an outstanding all-around effort that gave Tampa Bay the hard fought victory after a disappointing result on Monday night.
The Lightning started the game by sneaking back into bad habits, as Mathieu Joseph was penalized for high-sticking early on. The penalty kill did its job, holding the Panthers scoreless. It stayed that way a few more minutes until Steven Stamkos broke the ice, taking a pass from Alex Killorn and depositing it behind Cats goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to put the Bolts on top 1-0. Tampa Bay was determined to make things difficult on themselves though, taking another penalty late in the opening frame.
Vasilevskiy Stands Tall
With Kevin Shattenkirk off for interference, the Lightning penalty kill got back to work. The Panthers fired a number of shots on Vasilevskiy, many of which were grade-A opportunities. Thankfully for the Lightning, their starting netminder was on his game, denying both Mike Hoffman and Jonathan Huberdeau of sure goals. That gave Tampa Bay momentum, with Stamkos nearly scoring again in the first period’s final seconds, but Bobrovsky came up with one of his 46 saves on the night.
Good Defense Leads to Second Goal
The Lightning began the second period hemmed in their own zone while the Panthers did everything possible to try and solve Vasilevskiy. The patience and good defense shown during this time opened the door for the Bolts to extend their lead. They took full advantage, as Killorn collected Anthony Cirelli‘s original shot and beat Bobrovsky to give Tampa Bay a 2-0 lead.
Not long after Killorn scored, Shattenkirk laid out to prevent Evgenii Dadonov from getting to a rebound with Vasilevskiy out of position. The play went the other way then, and the Lightning were called for goaltender interference when Anton Stralman pushed Ondrej Palat into Bobrovsky.
The penalty kill continued to do its job, with Yanni Gourde losing his stick but still blocking Aaron Ekblad‘s blast from the point. Cirelli then got a shorthanded breakaway and was able to draw a penalty, sending Tampa Bay to their first power play.
Although they were held off the scoreboard, that man-advantage was a clinic by the Lightning. Stamkos began by clanking a one-timer off the post, but he wasn’t the only one shooting the puck. Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov and Palat all got good looks that either missed the net or were saved by Bobrovsky.
Lightning come close to extending lead, then get a break
For the first 10 minutes of the third period, the Lightning had the Panthers hemmed into their own zone. Killorn hit the post and numerous others missed the net or had their shots turned away by Bobrovsky.
The play then went the other way and it looked like Brett Connolly scored to cut the lead in half with 8:51 to go in regulation. The officials ruled it to be a good goal, but took another look. Upon further review, it was determined that Connolly batted the puck in above the crossbar, therefore the goal was disallowed and the score remained 2-0 Bolts.
Extra attacker breaks Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid
In a game that was still tight on the scoreboard, Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville elected to pull Bobrovsky with a little under three minutes remaining in the game and his team trailing by two. That worked to an extent, as notorious Lightning killer Hoffman scored with two minutes to go, breaking Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid.
The Panthers kept pressuring in search of the tying goal, but a commitment to making the smart decision and a dialed-in Vasilevskiy kept the puck out of harms way, allowing Tampa Bay to walk out of the BB&T Center with an important two points.
Next up, the Lightning return home to host the Atlantic Division leading Boston Bruins on Thursday night. Puck drops at 7pm.
Three Stars of the Game:
- Alex Killorn – Notched the game-winning goal and had an assist.
- Sergei Bobrovsky – Saved 46 of 48 shots. Without him, the Panthers would have been down by a lot more.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy – Had 27 saves on 28 shots and came within two minutes of getting his first shutout of the 2019-2020 season.
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