Slow-starting Panthers fall to Lightning in overtime

Maybe they had a bit too much turkey the night before. Yes, it was a sleepy one in Sunrise on Black Friday resulting in a grand total of 3 goals over 63 minutes. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers usually meet up in a scoring showdown ending as a one goal game, but those games rarely felt like the 'next goal wins' game we witnessed tonight. Guy Boucher is finally regrouping his team of a season to go; meaning the Lightning are not a fun game to play against, let alone watch. On the Panthers end, 7 of 8 points on the homestand was just what the doctor ordered despite the winning streak ending, fear not--Florida is still sitting pretty atop the southeast division heading into the back-9 of the home-at-home with Tampa. But next time, let's get some sleep shall we?




1st: Entertaining Matthieu Garon's 8th start of the season (3rd against Florida) neither team would muster much offense in the beginning of the period. After coming off a terrible 7-1 walloping from the Maple Leafs, Tampa was desperate to stop the bleeding and salvage their season. For much of the period, it would seem the Lightning would do just that by controlling the play and thwarting the Panthers few scoring chances. Eric Brewer would bat the puck out of play earning a delay of game penalty, giving the Panthers their first powerplay opportunity of the night. The powerplay wouldn't account for much, but the Cats would put in a few good shifts from the 2nd and 3rd lines. This spurt of energy would draw another penalty, Brett Clark would high stick Michal Repik in the corner late in the period. Again, not much would come of the powerplay and the period would end scoreless.

2nd: The second would start with the Panthers bringing a bit more energy to the table, but Tampa's improved defense would keep shots to a minimum. Fortunately for the Lightning, the defensive style of play kept Garon's juicy rebounds from costing him. Jose Theodore would have his fair share of scrambling for the puck midway though the period too when Tampa suddenly found their legs and put the pressure on Florida. With the momentum suddenly tipping towards the Lightning, Stephen Weiss would win a battle in the neutral zone to create an odd-man rush with Tomas Fleischmann, who would send a one-touch shot into the net to take the lead 1-0. The remaining seven minutes of the period wouldn't distinctively favor either club, and other than a few quick saves and a big hit from Jack Skille on Vincent Lecavalier, time would run out uneventfully--the score remaining 1-0.

3rd: Still holding some momentum and a precarious one goal lead, the Panthers needed two things; an insurance goal and defense. Though neither would come in the first few minutes of the third, Clark would blatantly interfere with a Panther player to earn his second penalty of the night, giving Florida their third powerplay opportunity of the game. This time Florida couldn't cycle the puck or even get into the Tampa zone. As the powerplay ended, Kris Versteeg would ring one off the post, but as the Panthers changed Lecavalier would fly in and tap in his own rebound past Theodore to tie the game 1-1. With 7 minutes to go in the game, Michal Repik would interfere with Adam Hall in front of the net, but Steven Stamkos would trip Mike Weaver as he entered the zone to negate the penalty. Marco Sturm would have one final rush into towards Garon but couldn't connect, setting the stage for overtime.

Overtime: With Dmitry Kulikov caught up behind the play, Lecavalier would send the puck wide on the ensuing 2 on 1, but Tampa would be awarded a powerplay from Kulikov's interference. With all but 20 seconds left on the penalty kill, Stamkos would fire a lazer from the hashmarks past Theodore to end the game, Lightning win.

Observations:

  • Tomas Kopecky wouldn't be in the lineup, with several reports claiming he was day-to-day with an upper-body injury. 
  • One thing I'm pleasantly surprised by, even with all the player turnovers and new coach, is the continuation of the penalty-disciplined club we saw last season. The fewer penalties a team takes the better their chances are of victory.
  • Michal Repik is just Jack Skille with higher expectations. But that's suddenly not a bad thing this season.  
  • After a scary hit last game, Fleischmann seems no worse for wear sinking his 10th goal of the season. And he has a billion points in his last 50 games.
  • We shouldn't be surprised by this, but Skille missed the net multiple times throughout the game. 
  • Secondary scoring, who needs it!? We do.
  • Jose Theodore had a fantastic night between the pipes, can't fault him on either goal.
  • Washington lost this afternoon to the Rangers, meaning the Panthers have extended their lead over the Caps to three points. The Capitals still have a game at hand. 
  • We may just now be understanding the value of Sean Bergenheim as a penalty killer. Since he's returned from injury, the PK has improved rapidly.

Next up: Oh hey, what super-exciting game is on tap for tomorrow? More Lightning, hurray! Florida has played well in their games at St Pete Times Forum, so perhaps a little revenge will be in the air with Jacob Markstrom presumably getting the nod.

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