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Recap: Lightning rolls to 7-3 win over Panthers

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Hoffman extends point streak in disheartening loss to Florida’s other team

NHL: Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Steven Stamkos scored a goal and set up three others as the Tampa Bay Lightning exposed the Florida Panthers defensive issues in a 7-3 win that dropped the Cats back to NHL .500 at 8-8-3.

After spotting Ottawa’s Matt Duchene an early breakaway goal on Monday, the Panthers allowed the same thing to happen last night, as rookie Mathieu Joseph stole the puck from Alex Petrovic in the neutral zone and broke in on Roberto Luongo before slipping the puck between his pads at the 59-second mark.

Florida’s newly tweaked fourth line responded 1:20 later to tie the game. Troy Brouwer deftly reeled in a blue line to blue line pass from Micheal Haley and then snapped a shot from the right circle past Louis Domingue, who has taken over as Tampa Bay’s number one with Andrei Vasilevskiy on the shelf. Colton Sceviour drew the second assist on Brouwer’s fifth.

Bolts sniper Nikita Kucherov put his club back on top at 9:22 with a power-play one-timer off a pass from Victor Hedman from the right circle that easily beat Luongo glove side.

Tampa Bay went up by two 2:37 into second period when the Panthers left Stamkos all alone in front and he was able to hit Yanni Gourde with a back door pass to complete the give-and-go for an all too easy put-away goal. J.T. Miller picked up the secondary assist for his second point for the night.

Adam Erne cashed in on rebound 2:18 later after Loungo denied Kucherov’s deflection of Ryan McDonagh’s drive from the point. The Cats failed to pick up Erne as he came off the bench and he was able to throw a backhander into the net.

Aleksander Barkov stuffed the puck under Domingue to cap off a pretty passing play involving Keith Yandle and Jonathan Huberdeau, in the order, with 1:35 left in the frame to cut the deficit to two. Domingue, who finished the game with 40 saves, had robbed Barkov earlier with a fine glove save.

The nightmarish third period was the Stamkos show as he scored ninety seconds in after another defensive breakdown to restore the Lighting’s three-goal lead, set up McDonagh for a goalmouth back door redirection at 3:21 to chase Luongo, and drew the second helper on Dan Giradi’s seeing-eye shot that beat James Reimer from long range.

Yandle teed up Mike Hoffman for a one-time blast that allowed the red-hot winger to extend his point streak to 17 games with 3:35 left on the clock. Huberdeau also picked up his second assist of the night on the power-play goal that came with Erne in the box for slashing.

***

Out of a playoff spot at U.S. Thanksgiving is not a promising spot to be in, even with games in hand on the rest of the conference. Florida’s defensive warts were on full display in this tilt, the first without Vincent Trocheck (gulp), which was a far cry from how well the Cats played the last time out in Tampa on opening night. Bob Bougher must find a way to get his team to play better defense, and I say the first step would be inserting Bogdan Kiselevich back into the linuep and perhaps recalling Ian McCoshen from Springfield. The Cats have surrendered an ugly 16 goals in the last three games. At some point (soon), there must be consequences for the same old mistakes we see on an almost nightly basis. The Panthers five-game winning streak is starting to look like a mirage that perhaps will be the high-point of a season that is on the verge of slipping off the rails if the club can’t tighten up in their own end. The six-game road trip comes to end Friday night in Raleigh against a Carolina Hurricanes team that is also looking to move up into a playoff position. The Panthers need a win to salvage the trip with a 3-3 record and build momentum coming into an eight-game homestand that, even though it’s still early, could go a long way towards making or breaking their 2018-19 campaign.

Video Recap (courtesy of NHL.com)