|@ Lightning (24-17-4)||0||2||1||3|
- The first period was fairly quiet for both teams and the Panthers didn’t get shot on goal until Nick Bjugstad sent on on goal near the halfway point of the period. Bishop stopped the shot with his right pad, and Bjugstad sent the rebound wide from the slot.
- The Panthers got a power play late in the period after Valtteri Filppula delivered an illegal check to the head of Jonathan Huberdeau. Florida had a good start to the man-advantage as the Jokinen-Trocheck-Smith unit had some good chances, but after that, they couldn’t get anything going.
- Overall, both teams played a cautious, defensive period, although the Lightning did have the better of the offensive zone time and scoring opportunities. The Panthers had a couple of defensive errors in the period, including one where Dmitry Kulikov turned the puck over in the defensive zone, and Willie Mitchell put a mini shot towards Roberto Luongo after a face off win. Luongo was tested a bit with some deflections and made some nice pad saves, but at the other side, the Panthers didn’t put much towards Ben Bishop.
- The Panthers got 2 straight power plays in the 2nd period, but couldn’t convert on either of them, making them scoreless in their last 16 opportunities. They’re gaining the zone without much trouble, but once they get set up, they’re content to cycle the puck endlessly without guys moving around the zone or changing positions to open seams. The Panthers had just 2 shots total over the course of both power plays so that’s another issue they’re having with the man-advantage.
- The Lightning scored 2 goals in the period, and the first one wasn’t really because of a miscue by the Panthers. Nikita Kucherov skated in on the right wing and put a perfect wrist shot top-shelf past Roberto Luongo. The 2nd goal came near the end of the period when a slap shot from the point that went wide rebounded into the blue point next to the goal post, and Andrej Sustr was able to backhand it past Luongo.
- The Panthers haven’t played particularly bad against the Lightning, but they don’t seem to have their legs going and they’ve been unable to really get anything going in the offensive zone. A modified line of Jokinen-Bjugstad-Pirri had one chance after the second Tampa goal, but Ben Bishop somehow kept the puck out despite several shots directly in front of the crease.
- The Panthers played their best hockey in a couple of games during the 3rd period. They had to kill off an early Brandon Pirri penalty, but Derek MacKenzie fought Cedric Pacquette almost halfway through the period and that seemed to energize the Panthers as they took control after that.
- The Panthers got their 4th power play of the game and it looked to be their best one in a while. Logan Shaw replaced Pirri and Jagr slotted in on the 2nd unit as Gerard Gallant wanted to change things up. Shaw Brian Campbell, and Reilly Smith got several good chances and the passing was tape to tape as the Panthers controlled the zone for most of the advantage.
- Nick Bjugstad scored his first goal since November 21st and since returning from a month-long absence due to migraines. Jussi Jokinen fed Bjugstad from below the goal line, and while the first shot was stopped by Bishop, Bjugstad stuck with it and put the rebound into the back of the net.
- After that, the Panthers began getting chances after chances. Reilly Smith was robbed of a redirection by Ben Bishop after the Panthers entered with a 3-on-2 advantage. They got their 5th power play opportunity not long after and the Panthers controlled the offensive zone for the entire 2 minutes. Jonathan Huberdeau was set up for a couple of one-timers which he sent wide.
- Roberto Luongo was pulled for the extra attacker with a minute and a half remaining in the 3rd period, but it was too early as they didn’t have full possession of the puck. Nikita Kucherov took the puck in the neutral zone and scored his 2nd goal of the game to salt it away.
Overall, the Panthers have fallen back to earth after a franchise record 12-game winning streak. The absence of Aaron Ekblad has certainly not helped them as the defensive pairings have been out of sorts since he went down. He’s one of the Panthers’ best possession players and is incredibly good at driving the play, so it’s a tough pill to swallow when you’re forced to play without him.
Also, the power play has been a detriment to the Panthers success. The last two power plays tonight were the best ones in a while, but they had a chance to get back into the game with the first three man advantages and they couldn’t get things done. On the bright side, Nick Bjugstad looked great tonight and scored the lone goal for the Panthers, so if he can continue this strong play, they’ll be in good shape.
The Panthers are back at it tomorrow at 7:30 against the Edmonton Oilers whom they faced just one week ago. Look out for our preview and recap of that game.