Lightning strike early and often in 8-5 win over Panthers

Cats put on ghoulish display of defense in Halloween Eve loss

After treating us to two relatively clean games against Anaheim and Detroit, the Florida Panthers tricked us into thinking they just might be able to play defense and kill penalties.

The powerful Tampa Bay Lightning laid waste to the theory, shredding the Cats by an 8-5 count in the third meeting between Florida’s two NHL clubs in three weeks.

Brayden Point opened the scoring just 2:48 into the first period when he deflected Braydon Coburn’s shot past James Reimer. Coburn’s defense partner Dan Girardi picked up the secondary assist.

Nikita Kucherov doubled Tampa Bay’s lead 2:07 later when he took a pass... i mean intercepted a Nick Bjugstad pass attempt that Steven Stamkos slightly deflected and rifled the puck over Reimer’s shoulder for his league-leading 13th goal.

Andrei Vasilevskiy gave the Panthers some hope when he allowed Aaron Ekblad to beat him with a weak shot from a sharp angle. Ekblad took a drop pass from Jonathan Huberdeau and threw the puck towards the net and it squeaked its way over into the cage. Aleksander Barkov drew the secondary assist on the Ekblad’s third at 10:31.

Ekblad’s hooking penalty would lead to the next Lightning goal at the 14:40 mark. The Panthers’ 29th-ranked penalty kill left Stamkos all alone in the left circle and he one-timed Victor Hedman’s set up into the back of the net. Alex Killorn picked up the second assist on the power-play marker.

Barkov pulled one back for the Cats with 53 seconds left in the stanza. Evgenii Dadonov  did the dirty work below the goal line and then found Barkov with a pretty backhand pass that the Panthers pivot drilled by Vasilevskiy.

After collecting the rebound of Dadonov’s shot, Barkov played catch with Hubderdeau. The crafty left winger was able to somehow lift the puck up and over Vasillevskiy after taking the second pass to even the game 5:32 into the second period.

The tie score seemed to wake up the Lightning as they ran off three straight goals in a span of 8:24.

Point got loose after taking a pass from Yanni Gourde and went wide on the Cats’ defense before finding Ondrej Palat for an easy tap-in goal.

Gourde would bag a goal of his own 2:21 later by deflecting in rookie Mikhail Sergachev’s wrist shot from the point through Reimer. Palat collected the second helper on the power-play that came with Keith Yandle sitting in the sin bin.

Antti Niemi would enter the game after Gourde’s goal and he would be solved by Valdislav Namestnikov quick wrister from the slot after Mark Pysyk deflected Kucherov’s pass right to the waiting Russian. Hedman got the seconday assist for his second point of the night.

Just when it looked like the teams might be content to play out the string, Nick Bjugstad took a nifty little pass from Radim Vrbata and fed a driving Jamie McGinn to cut the deficit to two 5:32 into the final frame.

Stamkos restored the Lightning’s three-goal lead when he redirected Jake Dotchin’s floater past Niemi at the 9:02 mark. Namestnikov also collected an assist for his second point of the game.

Dadonov would take adavantage of a great play by Huberdeau to notch his sixth of season 2:27 later. Huberdeau took a crisp pass from Barkov and juked both J.T, Brown and Vasilevskiy, only to be denied a goal by a sliding Girardi. The rebound came right to Dadonov, who easily slammed it home.

Tampa Bay defenseman Anton Stralman would seal the deal with an unassisted empty-net goal with 19 seconds remaining after Vasilevskiy made a fine pad save on Barkov’s deflection bid.

You’ll find few people who enjoy a high-scoring hockey game more than I do, but this one resembled a sloppy exhibition affair more than did a regular season tilt. Maybe that’s what happens when you have two teams play each other three times in less than a month. I get that the Panthers are inexperienced on the back end, but one wonders what exactly they are working on at practice after witnessing last night’s defensive shenanigans. As for the Lightning, I am impressed by their 10-2-1 record and firepower, however, how seriously can I take a team that’s surrendered 13 goals in 3 games to the lowly Panthers?

Full Highlights (courtesy of

Bolts & Dolts

  • Andrei Vasilevskiy equaled the NHL record (joining Manny Legace and Craig Anderson) for most wins in October with ten. Vasilevskiy, who stopped 18 shots, also set a franchise record with his ninth victory in a row.
  • Florida’s top line of Aleksanser Barkov, Jonathan Huberdeau and Evgenii Dadonov produced a combined 10 points and each winger posted a +3 rating. Barkov, who finished +2, led the way with four points, matching his career-high.
  • Brayden Point, Vladislav Namestnikov, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Nikita Kucherov each had a goal and an assist for the Lightning to go along with Steven Stamkos’ two goal, one assist performance.
  • Rookie Owen Tippett failed to register a shot on goal in 10:59 TOI. Tippett has gotten in six games and scored a goal, but, come on, let’s get this kid back to junior where he belongs once Jared McCann, Colton Scevior, and Connor Brickely return.
  • James Reimer made his fifth consecutive start and  ended his night with 14 saves after being pulled. Antti  Niemi  stopped 16 of 18 shots in his debut for the Panthers.
  • Aaron Ekblad scored a goal, registered four shots and finished with an even rating, but his two penalties were costly. The Lightning notched a power-play goal thanks to his first period infraction and scored five seconds after his second period call for interference expired.
  • Need a jolt after last night’s goal-fest? Stop by Raw Charge to get the juice./