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Stamkos, Domingue lead the way as Lightning overwhelm Panthers

Coming off an up-and-down four-game road trip, the Tampa Bay Lightning sought to regain more steady footing as they began a five-game homestand against the Florida Panthers. With Andrei Vasilevskiy on the shelf for 4-6 weeks, goaltender Louis Domingue continues to shoulder a heavy workload. In addition, the Lightning’s top two stars, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov, haven’t produced at the same rate as last season.

On Wednesday night at Amalie Arena, it all came together for those three and the entire Lightning roster as a whole. Stamkos notched a goal and three assists, Kucherov earned a goal and two assists, Domingue stopped 40 shots, and seven different players found the back of the net as the Lightning (15-6-1) proved to be too much for the Panthers (8-8-3) in a 7-3 win over their in-state rival on Marty St. Louis Night. Before the game, the Lightning paid tribute to St. Louis, the former Lightning captain who was recently inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Those weren’t the only players producing, as J.T. Miller ended the contest with three assists, Victor Hedman ended the night with two helpers, and Ryan McDonagh also picked up a goal and two assists as well. Yanni Gourde, Mathieu Joseph, Adam Erne, and even Dan Girardi hit the back of the net as well, chasing Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo, who allowed six goals on 28 shots before getting pulled in the third period.

Following a lackluster first two periods in Nashville on Monday, Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper changed his top two lines in the third period of that game, carrying that over to tonight. Stamkos, Gourde, and Miller skated on one line while Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Tyler Johnson rounded out the top six. Stamkos played his best game of the year, winning puck battles in all three zones, controlling play with the puck on his stick, making beautiful passes, and displaying the finishing touch that has made him one of the league’s elite players.

Neither team wasted any time getting on the board in this contest

Just 59 seconds in, Joseph pounced on a turnover, speeding behind the Panthers’ defense. Cutting in alone on Luongo, he smoothly slid the puck through the five hole for his fifth of the year and a 1-0 Tampa Bay lead. However, Florida tied it up 78 seconds later when Troy Brouwer collected a pass and powered down the right wing before beating Domingue to the short side for his fifth of the year. Both teams got their respective first goals on their first shots of the night.

Tampa Bay extended their lead on a power play goal at 9:22 after Stamkos drew a tripping penalty on Mackenzie Weegar. Victor Hedman controlled the puck at the point and acted like he was going to pass to Stamkos at the left circle before smoothly dishing it to Kucherov in the right circle. With Luongo out of position, Kucherov let his one-timer do the talking.

That sizzling rocket of a shot put the Bolts up 2-1, as Kucherov netted his ninth of the season. Tampa Bay began controlling play with a few extended shifts in Florida’s zone. However, over the final five minutes of the period, the Panthers began tilting the ice in their favor. Domingue, who probably wanted the Brouwer goal back, came up with several quality stops, including one after a rare turnover by Point led to a Grade A chance for Florida from the slot. The Lightning generated a few solid chances on a couple of power play opportunities, while the Panthers held the edge in scoring chances at 5-on-5.

An early power play for the Lightning came up short, but they built off it and took control in the second period

With 1:38 of carryover power play time from the first period, Tampa Bay couldn’t cash in, but created a few opportunities. They built off that momentum and began dominating even strength play during the first half of the second period. At 2:37, the trio of Gourde, Stamkos, and Miller combined for one of the prettiest goals the Lightning have scored this season. Making a great zone entry, Miller won a puck battle and worked the puck to Gourde, who found Stamkos wide open in front of the Florida net. However, rather than shooting it, Stamkos waited it up and drew Luongo to one side before dishing it to Gourde. Gourde followed it up with an easy tap-in, increasing the Bolts’ lead to 3-1.

Just 2:18 later, Erne bumped the Bolts’ lead to 4-1 with his third of the year. Point did some dirty work by keeping the puck in the Panthers’ zone before dishing to Ryan McDonagh. Kucherov deflected McDonagh’s shot, leading to a rebound in the slot. Erne, who has been playing quality hockey lately, skated from the bench and joined the fray, pouncing on the rebound and roofing a backhand shot past Luongo for the goal.

While the Lightning cashed in on their scoring chances, Domingue held the fort at the other end.

Although the Lightning controlled much of the action at 5-on-5 during the second, the Panthers still received their share of looks. While the Bolts contributed the majority of the chances in the middle stanza, Florida’s quality of opportunities was high-caliber despite the quantity not being there. Thankfully for the Bolts, Domingue was more than up to the task.

He made a tremendous save on Mike Hoffman halfway through the period, and later denied Brouwer on a cross-ice pass by flashing his right pad on a one-timer. In between, he made this sensational stop on Aleksander Barkov.

However, Barkov would bounce back with a power play goal late in the period to narrow the Lightning’s lead to 4-2 with his seventh of the season. Standing at the edge of the crease, he slammed home a pass from Jonathan Huberdeau to keep the Cats in this one heading into the final period.

Another unsuccessful carryover power play led to the Lightning putting this game out of reach

Tampa Bay carried over another power play from the second period to the third, but found themselves unable to cash in. However, it ended up being a moot point, as seconds after the man-advantage ended, Stamkos scored his seventh of the season. Miller began the sequence with a pass over to the point to McDonagh. His shot hit Kucherov in front and bounced to Stamkos, who caught Luongo out of position, made his move and scored to make it 5-2. Only 1:51 later, Stamkos took a pass from Miller and made a scintillating pass on a backdoor play to McDonagh, as the Lightning defenseman tipped it home after driving to the net, making it 6-2 and chasing Luongo for backup James Reimer.

Reimer stopped four of five shots, as the lone goal he allowed came off a shot from Girardi through a screen. Florida later got one back on late power play goal by Hoffman, but by then, the game was well in control.

The Lightning return to action on Friday night when they host the Chicago Blackhawks at Amalie Arena. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.

Game Notes

-Cedric Paquette returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s game in Nashville.

-Anton Stralman sat out his sixth consecutive game with an injury.

-Tonight’s game marked the fifth consecutive start for Domingue.

-Miller’s three assists tied a career high.

-Point saw his three-game point streak come to an end.

-Stamkos’s goal ended a five-game goalless drought.

-Hoffman’s goal increased his current point streak to 17 games, a Panthers record. He has 10 goals and 10 assists during that run.

-This was the Panthers’ first game without center Vincent Trocheck, who is out indefinitely after fracturing his ankle on Monday night in Ottawa.

-The final shot tally ended up 43-33 in favor of the Panthers.

-In tribute to Marty St. Louis, the Lightning used his old goal song, “Louie Louie” by The Kingsmen Quartet, when they scored tonight.

Our Three Stars Of The Game

1st Star: Steven Stamkos – A force at both ends of the ice, he finished the night with a goal and three assists in his best all-around game of the season.

2nd Star: Louis Domingue – Stopped 40 shots in what was his best start of the season, making multiple quality saves that kept the Panthers at bay.

3rd Star: Ryan McDonagh – Ended the night with a goal and two assists and had another solid outing at both ends of the rink. Played 20:30, the second-highest ice time on the Lightning this evening.

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