Despite drastically outshooting the Tampa Bay Lightning 39-13, the Florida Panthers couldn't score when it mattered, squandering four powerplay opportunities and allowing Tampa Bay to score on their only full powerplay chance. The Cats looked like the better team for most of the game and worked hard but once again couldn't translate that effort into a win. The lack of scoring is a glaring issue, but giving up an early goal once again came back to bite the Cats. The best defense is a good offense, but when your defense and goaltending are so poor that you're always down in the first five minutes of a game, it's hard for the offense to keep pace.
This team just has zero confidence left and it's showing from every possible angle. And, as if the Cats needed more bad news, it looks like winger Kris Versteeg will be out for awhile, possibly due to a major knee injury. Versteeg was injured early in the third period (video below) and was unable to skate off on his own. As I've said before, when it rains, it pours. Except in this case, it's a tsunami.
- This whole thing of giving up the first goal of the game, often in the first several minutes of the first period, is old. Really, really, really old. Markstrom would give up a goal on the first shot of the game, though he didn't have much help as Vincent Lecavalier would receive the puck basically alone in front of the net as both defensemen AND the centerman would follow Marty St. Louis into the corner.
- Meanwhile, if the Panthers could've scored on just one of their four powerplay opportunities, they would've likely been able to win. The Cats controlled large portions of the game and really outplayed Tampa Bay for a good amount of the game, especially in the second period. But none of that matters if you don't put the puck in the net, and despite all the time on the man advantage, the Cats couldn't do it.
- Filip Kuba is really slow. That is all.
- Colby Robak's got quite a shot from the point. So great, in fact, that he managed to shatter the glass with a blast from up high on a Cats powerplay. Robak looks legit as an offensive defenseman and should be able to se some regular time with the Panthers for the rest of this lost season and possibly next. He still needs to work on his defensive play but he's coming along. Needs to work on hitting the next though.
- The Panthers really miss a healthy and game-ready Kris Versteeg. On a team most devoid of scoring (or defense, or goaltending, or coaching, I could go on), his offensive abilities are something that are sorely needed. Too bad it looks like he's hurt badly again, this time with what looks like a serious knee injury. Versteeg, and the Panthers in general, just simply can not catch a break. Good luck trading him now, Dale.
- Erik Gudbranson has been such a bright spot for the Cats in this disappointing season. He's continuing to trend in his development as a defensive defenseman, capable of staying at home and not only playing responsibly but doling out some pain as well.
- Poor Marky. Chris wrote in his last recap that he hopes the abysmal performances by this team aren't affecting his confidence and development. That thought enters my mind every game Markstrom suits up to start. He hasn't played poorly in each start, and hasn't always been brilliant either, but he's still getting NHL action and hopefully realizes what little help he has each game. Still, he let up three goals on 13 shots in this game... not what you'd expect from your future in net, especially on the game-winner.
- Once again, the Panthers best line was the Jack Skille - Shawn Matthias - Tomas Kopecky trio. Kopecky's goal was the result of Skille deciding to just control the entire offensive zone, skating around like a man possessed and eventually making a great pass to set up Kopecky. That line works so hard every game and generates the most chances.
- That's the second time this season I've seen Steven Stamkos put one in from the goalline. He knows what he's doing.
- Radko Gudas hit on Versteeg: