It's official. The Florida Panthers are officially in a slump. After getting shutout in Calgary, the Cats produced just one goal in Sunday's 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena. The loss was Florida's third in a row (0-2-1).
After a tightly played and scoreless first period that saw the Bolts outshoot the Panthers by a 5-3 margin, Nikita Kucherov opened the scoring at the 4:21 mark of the second period. Kucherov slammed on the breaks in the right circle and whipped the puck by Roberto Luongo after taking a long pass from Nikita Nesterov. Anton Stralman drew the second helper on the play.
Defenseman Andrej Sustr added to lead with 1:19 remaining in the frame when he was able to stick the rebound of Jason Garrison's shot, which missed high, into the back of the net. Valtteri Filppula also was credited with an assist.
Nick Bjugstad finally got the Panthers on the board with his first goal (and point) since returning to the lineup at 8:06 of the third. Bjugstad took a nice pass from Jussi Jokinen and after being stopped by Ben Bishop, put his own rebound home for his eighth of the season.
The Cats ended up outshooting the Lighting 14-12 in the final period, but couldn't dent Bishop for the equalizer and Kucherov was able to ice the game with an empty-netter with a 1:24 left in regulation. Victor Hedman got the lone assist on Kucherov's eighteenth.
The Panthers return home to face the Edmonton Oilers tonight before getting a much-needed three-day break in the schedule. The Cats need a win to right the ship and maintain their lead on the Detroit Red Wings, who have crept within three points of the Atlantic Division lead.
Flash & Dash
Highlights (courtesy of NHL.com)