Tampa Bay needed a boost before the Christmas break with an important stretch of games against Atlantic Division opponents on the upcoming slate.
A 6-1 win over in-state rival Florida will certainly have the Lightning feeling merry as they get three days to rest for the holidays.
Tampa Bay sprinted out to a 3-0 lead after the first period against Florida and scored three consecutive goals on the power play to extend that advantage to 5-1 by the end of the second.
The Lightning have now won eight in a row at home over the Panthers, their last loss to Florida at AMALIE Arena coming during the 2015-16 season.
The game against Florida was the first of six-straight games against Atlantic Division foes for the Lightning. They continued their recent mastery of the division with the blowout win over the Panthers, the Bolts having now won nine in a row over Atlantic opponents after starting the season 2-2-0 versus the division.
The Lightning hope to keep that streak going Saturday when they come out of the holiday break to host the Montreal Canadiens at AMALIE Arena.
Video: FLA@TBL: Kucherov earns 500th point on Point's goal
1. BLAZING START
Before Monday's critical divisional showdown with the Panthers, Victor Hedman said the Lightning have to "come out hungry" and "empty the tank" in what amounted to a four-point game in the standings.
The Bolts certainly heeded the advice of their All-Star defenseman.
Just 41 seconds into the contest, Brayden Point got a tip on Erik Cernak's shot from the right dot to beat Sergei Bobrovsky and allow the Lightning to play from in front for essentially the duration of the game.
"You get that goal on the first shift, it really gets you fired up and everybody going on the bench," Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. "That was a great start and something we talked about trying to get the lead here and play with the lead and keep building on it. It was a whole team effort tonight and a great sign that we were able to keep the goals against down and gain some confidence."
The Lightning continued their scoring onslaught as the opening period progressed. With 15 minutes eclipsed from the first, Victor Hedman lined up a shot from the center of the ice a few strides in from the blue line and ripped the puck into the upper corner of the goal to push the Bolts' advantage to 2-0.
In recent losses, the Lightning had been misfiring on prime scoring opportunities.
They recalibrated and were right on target throughout Monday's victory.
And then with time winding down in the first, the Lightning capitalized on a late period power play, Ondrej Palat scooping up a loose puck down low as the Bolts pressured the Panthers into a turnover and spotting Mikhail Sergachev working his way into the high slot for a one-timer off the post and in and a 3-0 Lightning lead heading into the first break.
"Great net front on all three goals in the first period," Hedman said. "We shot the puck and the forwards did a great job of taking Bobrovsky's eyes away. That was a huge start for us."
Video: FLA@TBL: Killorn cleans up rebound for PPG
2. POWER PLAY REAWAKENS
Tampa Bay's power play was maligned two nights earlier in Washington after that unit went 0-for-7 and failed to convert nearly a minute-and-a-half of a 5-on-3 opportunity with the score tied 1-1.
Following the game, Brayden Point said the 3-1 loss to the Capitals was on him and the rest of the power play.
They made up for it against Florida.
The Lightning scored on three-straight power plays between the end of the first period and the start of the second to turn a tight 2-0 game into a runaway.
"We had a tough night in Washington," Point said. "To see pucks go in, it's a good feeling. We stuck with it. The entries on the first one weren't the greatest and we could have got frustrated. We stuck with it and guys were able to cash in, which was great."
Sergachev's goal late in the first period got the power play uncorked after their initial opportunity on the man-advantage midway through the first was wasted with little generated.
After Florida got on the board for its only goal of the game, Jonathan Huberdeau scoring on a 5-on-4 situation after the Bolts had killed off a brief 5-on-3, the Lightning power play went back to work. Alex Killorn re-extended Tampa Bay's lead to three goals with his rebound goal from the edge of the crease off a Steven Stamkos one-timer 10 seconds into a power play.
Nikita Kucherov tacked on a third power-play goal on the Lightning's next and final power play, Kucherov slinging a puck into the upper corner of the net from the right circle. Earlier in the night, the Russian right wing recorded his 300th career NHL assist and 500th career point in the League with his first period assist on Point's opening goal.
The Lightning netted three power-play goals for the third time this season. The Bolts entered Monday's game leading the NHL for home power-play percentage, and their lead in that statistical category will certainly widen after their potent 3-for-4 performance with the man-advantage against the Panthers.
"Power play was obviously a difference maker tonight," McDonagh said.
Video: Postgame | Victor Hedman
3. LOCKING IT DOWN
The Lightning went into the second intermission holding a 5-1 lead and all the momentum.
The key then became not letting the Panthers get back into the game.
Tampa Bay completed its mission by maintaining possession, keeping the puck buried in the offensive zone and limiting the Panthers to one shot and out on the rare opportunity they were able to generate anything.
"That was part of the message going into the third was we know we've got a four-goal lead but if you give away one, they gain momentum," Hedman said. "I thought we did a great job of closing it down and adding more."
Hedman added a sixth goal for good measure with 1:55 to play. The Swedish defenseman recorded his first multi-goal game of the season and sixth of his career.
Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with 29 saves on 30 shots to earn his 15th win of the season in a game where he passed Ben Bishop for most goalie starts (224) in Lightning history. Vasilevskiy is 5-1-1 in his last seven starts and has given up two or fewer goals in four of those wins.
The Lightning finished the four-game regular season series against the Panthers with a 3-1-0 record, taking both games at AMALIE Arena and splitting a pair of games in Sunrise.
"That team's got a ton of skill, and it doesn't take them much to make plays," Point said. "They can get rolling pretty easily. I thought we did a good job staying with it, playing hard in the third, just keep playing our game and not playing too defensive."