Only three words can be expressed as a positive for this game. Those being “It doesn’t count”. Nonetheless, the Panthers pathetic effort against the Lightning deserves heavy scrutiny, especially as the Lightning were absent the talents of Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. The Panthers had Aaron Ekblad and Mackenzie Weegar absent and this definitely hurt them on defense.
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING 5 FLORIDA PANTHERS 0
The Lightning started strong, potting the first three shots of the game against Sergei Bobrovsky. Bob looked sharp early on, as the Panthers took control with two powerplays. Andrei Vasilevskiy was up to the task, denying the Panthers on both of their powerplays. After the second powerplay, a turnover by Riley Stillman and Lucas Wallmark left Brayden Point in front of the net. Point juked out Mike Matheson and baited Sergei Bobrovsky down before finishing with a beautiful backhand.
The Panthers tried to equalize with a partial breakaway from Jonathan Huberdeau, but Huberdeau was unable to convert. A full breakaway from Aleksander Barkov ended in dissapointment, as Barkov once dominant solo against the goalie, has been snakebitten this entire campaign when alone. Barkov’s attempted backhand seemed lackluster in effort and was easily stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy.
A misplay by Mike Matheson allowed Brayden Point a partial breakaway in the dying seconds of the first. Sergei Bobrovsky made a mistake by hanging back in net and failing to challenge the shooter. This could be forgiven as Bob hasn’t played in 5 months and is a bit unsure here. However, this is concerning as the Panthers will begin playoff qualifier. action on Saturday. Brayden Point once again fooled Bob into going low and fired a wrist shot over Bob’s shoulder glove side.
The Panthers got into trouble early on with Frank Vatrano taking an interference penalty. This powerplay led to Tampa playing a game of tic tac toe before Nikita Kucherov fired an absolute bomb of a one timer past Sergei Bobrovsky to the point where the announcement crew didn’t even know Kucherov had scored. The puck seemingly vanished into a wormhole and reappeared behind Sergei Bobrovsky’s back.
Tampa quickly added a fourth goal as the Panthers failed to track the trailing defenseman who came in and fired a wrist shot past Bobrovsky. This fourth goal could be blamed on the Panthers defense, but Bobrovsky is being paid $10 million. He has to stop at least one of these, if not two.
Erik Haula had a breakaway shorthanded, but Vasilevskiy turned it away.
Things got tense when Brian Boyle and Mikhail Sergachev dropped the gloves. This was probably the highlight of the afternoon for the Cats as it was the only facet where they weren’t thoroughly dominated.
The Panthers had a lengthy 5 on 3 in the 3rd and this is where their offense looked the best. Unfortunately, the absence of fans screaming shoot seemed to hurt the Panthers, as the Panthers refused to shoot the puck and Evengii Dadonov struggled. The team got too cute.
The Lightning had a 2 on 2 with Point and Kucherov. Matheson completely mishandled Point’s coverage. Brady Keeper tried his best to take away Kucherov’s stick but Kucherov outmuscled Keeper and was able to put the puck past an outstretched Bobrovsky who had dropped when Point got close to the net.
Aleksi Saarela had the best breakaway of the game, but Vasilevskiy came up strong.
I am very curious how Joel Quenneville practices tomorrow. This reminded me of the debacle against Carolina early in October that led to that bag skate. I wonder if Q bag skates the boys tomorrow, two days prior to the qualifiers. Unfortunately, I don’t think the bag skate would have any effect here as it is late in the season. Quite simply, the Panthers need to put a sock in their mouth and prove themselves on the ice. They are great at hyping themselves up but they cannot execute. Also a benching on Saturday for Mike Matheson wouldn’t be out of the question. I’m also curious as to whether Q keeps Bob in for Saturday. I believe he will, but I do think he will be on a short leash. Brady Keeper wouldn’t be a bad addition to the lineup. It was concerning that Mackenzie Weegar was a late scratch so we will have to see how that plays out.
My Saturday Lineup