Three straight games, three straight shootouts... and three straight shootout losses for the Panthers. This time, the Tampa Bay Lightning stormed back (pun intended) from a 3-0 deficit in the first period and walked away with two points in the standings as they were able to top the Panthers in the extra-extra frame. Florida squandered some great chances in the second period to add to their lead, but you have to give credit to Lightning goalie Dwayne Roloson, as he was able to keep his team in it long enough to mount a comeback. It's encouraging to see Florida gaining points in every game, but you have to wonder when these missed points are going to catch up with them in regards to a playoff spot at the close of the regular season.
The Panthers came out with a lot of energy and generated some early pressure, which led to a powerplay just two minutes into the game. The Cats capitalized immediately off a wrister from Brian Campbell in the slot, scoring his first goal as a Panther. The Panther powerplay continues to be stellar and has drastically improved since last season, but what's best about it is the consistency at which the Panthers convert. After a bit of end-to-end play, with Florida dominating in shots and scoring chances, the Lightning get a powerplay chance around the middle of the period, after Campbell failed to get the puck deep and Steve Downie intercepted. Downie went in almost alone on Jose Theodore, but was hooked down by Jack Skille; trust me, not a bad penalty by Jack. The Panthers managed to kill off the penalty, and right as Skille leaves the box, the puck heads to him and he races to the other end with Tomas Kopecky, who received a backhand feed from Skille and deposited it top shelf on Mathieu Garon. The teams again traded chances until Mike Santorelli ripped a sweet wrister past Garon, who was then pulled in favor of Dwayne Roloson. The Cats kept up the pressure for the remaining of the period, but they were unable to put a fourth in and went to the first intermission with a 3-0 lead.
The Cats continued the second the way they played in the first, peppering Roloson with shots. Florida really controlled the pace of play during the first half of the second period, and Theodore stood strong when he was needed. The Lightning finally put a goal on the board as Santorelli ended up in the box for holding, giving Ryan Malone a chance to put in a rebound and make it 3-1. Not much later, Steven Stamkos strikes on a beautiful feed from Matt Gilroy as he stood alone in front. Ed Jovanovski's gotta take the blame for that one, as he didn't seem to be aware of who was standing behind him, though it probably shouldn't matter as he should be tying up whoever is in front. The Cats generated a couple more shots, as did the Bolts, but the period ended 3-2, with the ice tilted in the favor of Tampa Bay going into the third.
Florida got an early powerplay off a holding call by Stamkos and had great puck possession, but were really only able to get perimeter shots and weren't able to convert. Tampa Bay really started pushing at this point, cutting down on the shots against and starting to keep the puck in the Panthers zone. The Lightning continued pushing and scored the game-tying goal during a scrum in front, with Teddy Purcell able to tip it in as the puck laid on the goal line. Versteeg was then called for interference shortly after, but luckily the Lightning weren't able to score on the man advantage as the Panthers and Theodore were able to kill it off. The Panthers and Bolts continued some back and forth play and tried to stay somewhat conservative, but Florida started to come on strong at the end of the third, generating some chances but not capitalizing. Neither team could get a game deciding goal in the final minutes, and the game went to OT.
It's a wonder no one scored as there were a ton of shots and pressure from each team. Both Martin St. Louis and Jovanovski had golden chances to win it for their teams, but no one could convert and things would need to be decided in the shootout, which has been kryptonite for the Panthers as of late.
Tampa Bay starts with Stamkos, who is stopped by Theodore
Florida counters with Versteeg, who is stopped by Roloson
Tampa Bay brings out Downie, who gets shut down by Theodore
Florida tries out Marcel Goc, who can't convert
Tampa Bay gives Purcell a chance, but he can't convert against Theodore
Florida's Stephen Weiss tries to win it, but is stoned by Roloson
Former Panther Dominic Moore scores on his attempt
Sean Bergenheim is unable to convert against his former team, giving Tampa Bay the win
- It seemed like later in the second and parts of the third, the Panthers sat back on their heels too much. They had such great pressure in the first and in the first part of the second period, it makes you wonder if Kevin Dineen had something to say about the periods of lax play. If he didn't then, he does now, because it cost Florida a point again.
- Kris Versteeg was everywhere on the ice in this game. He assisted on the first goal by Campbell and had seven (!) shots on goal. He's always just one or two moves away from breaking away from the man covering him and generating a dangerous opportunity for the Panthers. It will be a surprise if he doesn't lead the team in scoring this year.
- If I ever needed to cast a lumberjack in a feature length film, I'd tell Malone to grow a beard and give him the job. Dude's a lumberjack, in that he does a lot of chopping.
- The Panthers were a bit more aggressive at their own blueline in this game, as compared to the Chicago game where they were a bit too tentative at pressuring against the oncoming rush/forecheck. They should keep doing that whenever possible, as they are also quite good at quick transitions.
- Jovanovski hasn't had a lot of games this season where he's been what you would call a "defensive stalwart." He was beat pretty bad on a couple of plays in this game and seems to be caught out of position often enough. Hopefully he can rectify that.
- Florida dominated the first period, winning 15 faceoffs and outshooting Tampa Bay by a margin of 16-9. It was one of the more dominant performances by the Panthers this year, but more importantly, they didn't start the game off by allowing the first goal, which they've done quite a bit this season.
- Shawn Matthias had another good game, and Matt Bradley owes him a steak dinner after not scoring off a jaw-dropping backhand pass on the rush. Matty is one of those players that continues to impress and should not have to worry about that two-way deal he signed if he keeps it up.
- I think it's safe to say Dmitry Kulikov has settled down. He's playing the best hockey of his young career and is turning into the blueline anchor the Panthers were hoping for when they drafted him. He's making great outlet passes, jumping up in to the play at the right time, and is hitting everything in sight.
- Before the OT period, Dineen was on the bench screaming his head off at the refs, trying to get their attention. After watching former head coach Peter DeBoer often stay mute behind the bench, it was nice to see that kind of fire and anger from the bench boss of the Panthers.
- Campbell looked fantastic again in this game, and his only gaffe was a backcheck on Martin St. Louis in OT. He's showing every game why he's worth the kind of money he makes, no matter what you think of the contract.