Recat: Wait 'Til Next Year

The Panthers couldn't extend meaningful hockey past the Tampa Bay Lightning, losing to the Bolts by a 4-0 final count.

The Panthers dropped their final matchup against the cross-state rivals from Tampa Bay in Sunrise tonight by a final count of 4-0. Ben Bishop stopped 33 shots and Steven Stamkos would total two goals and an assist for the Lightning, who would claim home-ice in the first round of the playoffs while officially eliminating the Panthers from contention.

The first period flew by. The first 10 minutes would see the two teams combine for just four shots (two each). By the end of the frame, the score was still virginal, with the Cats leading in shots on goal by a slim seven-to-six margin. Just 12 faceoffs were had during the first, with the Lightning winning eight of them. Florida went 0-for-1 on the power play.

In the second, each team enjoyed a power play through the first half of the period, but only the Lightning would hit paydirt. Stamkos lit the lamp for the 41st time this season at the 6:10 mark, with assists from Tyler Johnson and Nikita Nesterov.

Stamkos did it again five minutes later, snapping one over Roberto Luongo's glove side on an assist from Ryan Callahan to double Tampa Bay's lead. The Panthers led in hits after two, 20-to-17, and also went 11-for-20 in the faceoff circle through the frame. In the only place it matters, however, the Panthers trailed, 2-to-0.

The third period would see the Cats fall even further behind just past the one minute mark, when Callahan earned his 24th marker of the season, shooting one barely through Luongo's stick side armpit. The biscuit dribbled home for a 3-0 Tampa lead, with an assist from Stamkos.

Florida had a five-on-three chance for 24 seconds with seven minutes remaining, but lost their advantage by letting the Bolts win the faceoff then lose another chance when Huberdeau couldn't handle the puck on Bishop's doorstep with one second remaining on the two-man advantage. The rest of the power play would also prove fruitless, and prove to be the last of Florida's chances for the game and for the season.

Tyler Johnson added insult to injury with less than two minutes remaining, poking the puck past Luongo at a goalmouth scramble for the final 4-0 margin. It was Johnson's 27th of the year, and he did it unassisted.

Although dreams of the cup may have ended in South Florida for this season, there's still hockey to be played. Tune in tomorrow when the Montreal Canadiens visit the Panthers at 5PM.