On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning earned a small measure of revenge against Sergei Bobrovsky, the former Columbus Blue Jacket whose efforts helped eliminate the Lightning from last season’s playoffs. After finishing off Bobrovsky’s new team, the Florida Panthers, in the season opener, the Lightning looked to sweep their home-and-home with the Panthers. Unfortunately for the Lightning, that task proved to be a challenge. Multiple penalties and sloppy plays would give the Panthers the advantage they needed to get their revenge.
Both teams started the game firing on all cylinders with a handful of scoring opportunities. As the period went on, the Lightning began to gain some momentum. Most notably, the Lightning’s fourth line of Pat Maroon, Gemel Smith, and Luke Witkowski led the charge. However, Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky stood tall. On the other side, Florida’s top line showed up in full force for the entire period. Despite that, Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy countered with some big saves of his own. The first period ended scoreless with neither team taking a penalty. In spite of this, it didn’t take long for the Panthers to gain revenge after their loss to the Bolts on Thursday.
Penalty woes arise
The second period started off right where the previous one left off. Once again, both teams kept the intensity by pressuring the defense and forcing the goalies to make tough saves. The first power play of the night went to the Panthers when Tampa was called for too many men on the ice with 14:42 left in the period. The Bolts killed it off with ease, yet their penalty kill got tested again minutes later as Mathieu Joseph went to the penalty box for holding. Staring down danger again, the penalty kill was flawless, but that wouldn’t last long.
Undisciplined play gives Panthers larger lead
Another Tampa Bay penalty gave Florida their third power play of the evening, but this time the Panthers made the Bolts pay. A power play goal by Mike Hoffman to gave the Panthers at 1-0 lead at the 9:42 mark of the second period. Jonathan Huberdeau and Keith Yandle earned the assists, but they weren’t done yet. Hoffman kept the goals coming with another PPG minutes later to make it 2-0.
By this point, the Lightning found themselves reeling. The momentum continued to surge in Florida’s favor as a goal from Noel Acciari at the 12:32 mark put them up 3-0. The Lightning finally got the spark they needed courtesy of a goal by Smith in front of the net at 16:23. Witkowski and Maroon earned the assists. Despite yet another strong period by the Bolts’ bottom line, the penalties really hurt the Lightning in that period.
Hoffman Makes it Rain Hats and Revenge
Going into the third period, the Lightning knew they had to get the gears going if they wanted to get back into this game. Unfortunately, Hoffman put hopes of a Lightning comeback on life support 17 seconds into the third period. Deflecting a shot from Aaron Ekblad, Hoffman’s second career hat trick made it 4-1 for Florida. For a time, it appeared, the Panthers would easily get their revenge on the Lightning. However, this one wasn’t over quite yet.
Comeback Falls Short
A Steven Stamkos one-timer from the left circle at the 6:40 mark cut the Panthers’ lead to 4-2. Tampa Bay continued to make the game interesting with a late goal from Joseph to make it 4-3. Despite continuing to knock on the door in over the final five minutes, the comeback fell short after Bobrovski made a few stellar saves in the closing seconds of the game to seal the 4-3 win for the Panthers. It may not have been the outcome the Lightning wanted, but they never gave up and still managed to get back into the game. The Bolts will look to get back on track Sunday afternoon as they travel to Carolina to face the Hurricanes at 5 pm EST.
Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Mike Hoffman – He torched the Lightning defense by scoring three goals, thus earning his second career hat trick.
2nd Star: Jonathan Huberdeau – Huberdeau assisted on two of Hoffman’s three goals and was a force to be reckoned with on the power play.
3rd Star: Aaron Ekblad – The Panthers captain also had a pair of assists, helping his team achieve the victory.
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