A procession of Florida players to the penalty box - rivaled perhaps only by Westward Expansion of the late19th century - kept the Cats off the puck and in serious trouble yet again as the Bolts banged home four unanswered goals to gain a preseason-capping win in Tampa Bay.
The Panthers ended the 2010 exhibition schedule with a 3-2-1 record; all three losses coming in the most recent games.
Mike Santorelli - assisted by Bryan Allen and Mike Weaver - opened the scoring to carry a 1-0 lead into the second frame, but saw the advantage disintegrate within a span of five minutes as Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos (twice, on 3 total shots) turned the Cats' world upside down.
As if an insurance marker was required, Sean Bergenheim ended any hope for Florida in the third with a wrister past Jacob Markstrom - who played the entire 60 minutes - to wrap it up. Forwards David Booth, Stephen Weiss, and captain Bryan McCabe did not participate.
In the nets, Markstrom stopped 36 of 40 shots, while Mike Smith slept through 20 saves. For those counting, the Florida shot totals for the final two matches are 51SF - 83SA.
That's completely unacceptable at this level of competition, and someone's feet should be held firmly against the proverbial fire. As well, sixteen penalties over the past two games display an ugly underbelly for a Panthers club scarcely equipped to handle the increased defensive load, though on the plus side they had killed 32 successive power plays before this evening.
Positives? Rookie Erik Gudbranson (no points, -1) was second only to Dennis Wideman in TOI, logging 23:46, most impressive and surely indicative of coach DeBoer's intention to retain him. Whether GM Dale Tallon agrees is another matter, though a contract offer to the 18 year-old is reportedly imminent. Duuuuh.
Rostislav Olesz led the club in SOG with 3 (at the other end Vinny cruised with a paltry 8).
Lots of holes to plug...more than fans imagined even forty-eight hours ago. Or is the inherent problem perhaps one that runs beyond the roster?
Related: do check out Raw Charge for a Tampa-centric view on the evening.