After earning All-Star Game MVP honors over the weekend, Matthew Tkachuk delivered another standout performance, this time in a game that mattered, with two goals and three assists to power the Florida Panthers to an impressive 7-1 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Carter Verhaeghe scored twice and collected two assists and Sam Bennett added a 4-on4 marker and two helpers as the Panthers’ second line completely dominated the tilt by combining for 12 points and 15 shots on goal.
After Verhaeghe converted a Tkachuk cross following an interception early in the first and Bennett finished off another fine Tkachuk feed from behind the net 1:42 into the second, the Lightning got their only goal when Nikita Kucherov let go of a long shot through traffic that found twine at the 3:02 mark, with the assists going to Mikhail Sergechev and Brayden Point.
Tkachuk answered back 5:32 later when he batted in a Verhaeghe shot that struck defenseman Zach Bogosian and the Cats never looked back as Eetu Luostarinen added a deflection goal at 17:56 from Brandon Montour and Verhaeghe to put Florida up by three after two.
The final frame saw the Panthers reel off three more with Eric Staal scoring unassisted at 2:53 after a giveaway by an off-his-game Andrei Vasilevskiy. Tkachuk set up Verhaeghe in the right circle for a second time at 5:26 and then completed the scoring with a power-play goal at 14:23 from Bennett and Aaron Ekblad. Ekblad also drew an assist on Bennett’s goal.
Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves to get his record back to NHL .500 at 13-13-2. It was the veteran keeper’s first appearance since January 19, when he had to leave after 2:01 of action with a lower-body injury.
This was Florida’s largest margin of victory this season and that it came against the Lightning made it even sweeter. The Cats pelted Vasilevskiy with a total of 49 shots, out-hit the visitors 19-13, went 1 for 2 with the man-advantage and killed off both of Tampa Bay’s power-play opportunities. Florida beat Boston, the league’s top team, in its last game and then returned from the All-Star break with an electrifying performance against the Lightning, who have the sixth-most points in the NHL. Are the Panthers back?
Nuts & Bolts
- Matthew Tkachuk produced five points for the first time with the Panthers and the third time in his career after doing it twice with the Calgary Flames. Tkachuk has racked up 28 points (10G/18A) in the past 15 games and is currently fifth in the NHL in scoring with 71 points.
- Paul Maurice became the sixth coach to reach 800 NHL wins, joining Scotty Bowman (1,244), Joel Quenneville (969), Barry Trotz (914), Ken Hitchcock (849) and Lindy Ruff (814). Congrats on the milestone!
- Nikita Kucherov’s goal extended his point-streak to seven games. The Cats limited Kucherov, who finished with a -3 rating, to three shots on Sergei Bobrovksy.
- Carter Verhaghe has scored nine times in his last nine games and leads the Panthers with 28 goals.
- Aleksander Barkov left the game in the second period after blocking a shot by Mikhail Sergachev. Hopefully, he will not miss any further time.
- The last time Andrei Vasilevskiy gave up seven goals in a regular season game was on February 22, 2020, against the Arizona Coyotes
- If the Panthers can beat San Jose on Thursday it will give them their first three-game winning streak of the season and mark the first time they’ve been four games over NHL .500. They simply can’t take a step back after beating the Bruins and Lightning.
- The Cats are now 1-1-1 against Tampa Bay this season. Read more about at it at Raw Charge.