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Burns: 3 Things from a scorefest win over the Panthers

Lightning beat writer Bryan Burns recaps the Bolts 8-5 win over Florida on Monday night

by Bryan Burns / TampaBayLightning.com

Wouldn't a playoff series between the in-state rival Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers be a lot of fun?

The three games they've played so far have produced some of the most intense, back-and-forth, high-scoring contests this season.

The Lightning and the Panthers again got into a shootout on Monday, the Bolts pulling away for an 8-5 victory at BB&T Center in Sunrise.

The two teams have combined for 30 total goals in their three meetings.

They play once more in 2017-18: March 6 at AMALIE Arena.

Buy your tickets now if you like goals.

Three Things from a wild one in Sunrise.

Video: TBL@FLA: Stamkos fires scorching power-play goal

1. STARTING STRONG, FINISHING STRONGER

The last time the Lightning visited Florida, they opened up a 2-0 lead within the first five minutes but couldn't hold on in a 5-4 loss, their first of the season.

Monday's matchup saw a similar scenario. Brayden Point scored at 2:48 for the game's first goal. Nikita Kucherov pushed the lead to 2-0 at 4:55 of the opening period.

Unlike three weeks ago, however, the Lightning were able parlay that strong start into a solid effort throughout.

The victory didn't come easy, though.

After going up 3-1, Florida battled back to tie the game a little more than five minutes into the second period. Tampa Bay answered, netting three-consecutive goals to go up comfortably 6-3.

Except even a three-goal lead with one period to play isn't comfortable against the Panthers.

Florida again made the Lightning work in the final period, cutting the deficit to two a couple of times.

Tampa Bay had a response each time, first Steven Stamkos netting his second goal of the game for a 7-4 advantage and then Anton Stralman scoring on an empty Florida net for the 8-5 final.

The Lightning were flying from the opening puck drop for the second-straight game at Florida.

Unlike their first visit to Sunrise, the Bolts made sure they didn't waste it this time around.

"I didn't think it really was an 8-5 game out there," Stamkos said. "I thought we played pretty well. So it was a good bounce-back game for us after a loss at home the other night and glad to get back in the win column."

 Video: TBL@FLA: Point redirects the puck past Reimer

2. THAT OTHER TOP LINE
The trio of Vladislav Namestnikov, Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov are considered Tampa Bay's top line, and for good reason.

Stamkos leads the NHL for scoring, assists, and power-play points. Kucherov is the current league goal leader. And Namestnikov entered Monday's game as one of only five Bolts in double figures for scoring.

But the Bolts' second line of Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde has been just as critical to the team's success over the first 13 games of the season.

And they proved their worth yet again in Sunrise.

All three players recorded a goal and an assist and finished a combined plus-5 in the 8-5 win over Florida. All three goals came at critical times too.

Point got the all-important opening goal. The Lightning are now 8-1-0 when scoring first.

Palat's tally came at 7:17 of the second period to put Tampa Bay back in the lead after Florida had rallied to tie the game.

Gourde scored 2:21 after Palat's goal to give the Bolts a 5-3 advantage and a little bit of a breathing room.

The Palat-Point-Gourde line was strong defensively, too, as only one of Florida's five goals came with them on the ice.

"We have a lot of depth up front," Stamkos said. "It's been one of our strong suits the last couple years. We'll continue to get scoring up and down the lineup, that's huge in today's game. We saw it was a big part of the win today."

 Video: TBL@FLA: Vasilevskiy turns away Yandle's wrister

3. SIGNS OF IMPROVEMENT
Lightning head coach Jon Cooper stated before the third meeting between the Bolts and Cats that Monday's game would be a good indicator how much better his team has gotten since the opening weekend back-to-backs against Florida.

In those first two games, a win and a loss, the Lightning considered themselves lucky to come away with two of four points after getting outplayed for large stretches of those contests. In the second meeting, the Lightning were porous defensively and, collectively as a team, had to re-examine what they were doing with they didn't have the puck following that dismal showing.

Tampa Bay went 8-1-1 since the opening weekend home-and-home set against Florida, but Monday's rematch would be a good test to see just how far they've come.

And although there were certainly some areas that need to be cleaned up - namely, giving up five goals and allowing a team to get back in the game when it should be over - the overall effort was solid.

Cooper was pleased how his team responded.

"After what they did to us a few weeks ago, as a coaching staff, we wanted to see where we were going to be at knowing that we were going to play them again at the end of the month," Cooper said. "Florida's going to look back and say they gave up eight goals, but they've got a good team. They play fast. They're heavy. For us, we needed to see where we're at, and I'm happy with the way things turned out."

 

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