Despite the outcome, there were some positives for the Lightning to take out of Game One. At the top of the list was how well they defended — and their ability to maintain that high level may be the biggest key for Tampa Bay to have success in the series.

There were points in Game One when the Panthers surged. During those segments, Florida owned a majority of the possession and applied pressure. For the most part, however, the Lightning handled those surges effectively. They kept dangerous chances to a minimum, checked hard, and protected the front of the net. Prior to Matthew Tkachuk’s empty-net goal, the Panthers scored on two well-executed plays. Tip your hat. Still, it was a good sign that the Lightning made the Panthers earn what they got — and Florida didn’t get much.

Of course, the Panthers, who finished the regular season tied with Winnipeg for the fewest goals allowed in the league (not including shootout goals), also defended very well. The Lightning had a difficult time generating scoring chances themselves. Specifically, the Panthers did a terrific job taking away time and space from Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point. The Lightning scored their one five-on-five goal off a faceoff win, followed by three shots on net in a row (the third went in). We’ll see what adjustments they make in Game Two to create a higher volume of dangerous looks.

The Lightning tallied their second goal with only 10 seconds remaining — it came while they were on a six-on-four power play (with Andrei Vasilevskiy on the bench for an extra attacker). They only received one other power play in the entire game. Perhaps they will get more opportunities as the series progresses. After all, they are facing a team that tends to take a lot of penalties. Only one club (Anaheim) was shorthanded more often in the regular season than the Florida Panthers.

The Game One officials, however, let a lot go on both sides. So the game was primarily played five-on-five. But they decided to make a call on Nick Paul late in the second period that seemed to be inconsistent with how they officiated the rest of the contest. Therefore, it was a bitter pill for the Lightning that the Panthers scored what was the biggest goal of the game while on the power play that followed the call on Paul. The Carter Verhaeghe power-play marker at :58 of the third allowed the Panthers to play the rest of the game with the lead. And they played a textbook defensive third period, repeatedly clearing pucks from their own end and forcing the Lightning to regroup. 

The Lightning came to South Florida looking for a split. They’ll hope to achieve it when they see the Panthers in Game Two on Tuesday.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:

  • Aleksander Barkov — Panthers. Two assists.
  • Gustav Forsling — Panthers. 
  • Brandon Hagel — Lightning. Goal.