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Panthers in huge hole after dropping 3-1 decision to Lightning

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Another close but no cigar effort leaves the Cats down two games

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning built an early lead that they refused to relinquish and went on to beat the frustrated Florida Panthers by a 3-1 count in Game 2 at the BB&T Center.

Steven Stamkos passed the puck off defenseman Anton Stralman and into the net 4:52 into the opening period and Ondrej Palat followed up on Brayden Point’s shot that rang off the far post after Point blew by MacKenzie Weegar, who had a rather tough outing, 10:05 later.

The only Panthers goal came with 5:39 left in the second period, Mason Marchment won a puck battle behind the net and got it to Aleksander Barkov, who passed off to Carter Verhaeghe. The ex-Bolt found Marchment open in front of the net and he chipped a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy to halve the deficit. It was the first career playoff goal for the 25-year-old Marchment.

That would be all the offense the Cats would muster, and a horrid play by Keith Yandle in the end game allowed Yanni Gourde to ice it into an empty net with 1:25 remaining in regulation.

After a poor first period, the Panthers were the better team over the final forty minutes. Unfortunately, they passed up too many opportunities to shoot and continually tried to make that one extra pass that wasn’t really there as the Lightning did a good job of clogging up the ice and breaking up plays. Vasilevskiy faced 33 shots, but not enough of them were high quality. It looked like he was in their heads, which I don’t really understand after they put 13 pucks by him in the last three meetings... The decision to go with seven defensemen was the wrong one in my opinion. The strength of this Panthers team is its forward depth. inserting Anton Stralman to the lineup added little to nothing and led to a worn out Barkov by the end of the game. Hats off to Marchment, who along with the captain, was the team’s best player. More Cats need to put forth that kind of extra effort. For the most part, the Panthers are right there with the Lightning, but once again it was the champs who found a way to eke out a win and take what looks like an insurmountable two-game lead. Teams with a 2-0 lead are 330-51 (86.6 percent) winning a best-of-7 NHL playoff series, including 4-0 in the first round last season. This, however, isn’t like last year when 80% of the team sleepwalked through the qualification round against the New York Islanders. The Cats need to find a way to take Game 3 and get back in the series. One avenue could be converting on the power play, which went 0 for 3 last night and looked very out of synch. The lack of shooting threat from the point is hurting. Not making excuses, but the Panthers are really missing Aaron Ekblad right now as the pay the price for not winning the division.

Flash & Dash

  • Mason Marchment’s goal marked the second consecutive game a Panthers rookie has scored in the playoffs (Game 1 – Owen Tippett), a first in Panthers history. Marchment is the fifth rookie to score a goal for the Panther in the playoffs in club history joining Tippett, Ed Jovanovski, Radek Dvorak, David Nemirovsky.
  • Chris Driedger became the first rookie to start a playoff game in club history. He finished with 26 saves and gave his snake-bitten team a good chance to win. Driedger became the first goalie to make his NHL playoff debut on his birthday.
  • Aleksander Barkov led the Cats with 26:28 TOI and five shots on goal. He has recorded at least a point in each of his past six postseason games (2G/5A).
  • Also picking up assists for the Lightning were Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov, Anthony Cirelli and Ondrej Palat.
  • Three different Panthers, Radko Gudas, Patric Hornqvist, Ryan Lomberg, registered five hits. Gudas’ rocking of Blake Coleman at center ice was highlight reel moment.
  • For the other side of Game 2 of the Sunshine State showdown, plug into Raw Charge.

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