In their first two games of the season against the Florida Panthers, the Lightning struggled with puck management and, as a result, ceded most of the puck possession to their opponents. The Panthers were able to dictate play for most of those contests, especially the second one (October 7 in Sunrise). In this game, however, the Lightning flipped that switch. They were the ones controlling the puck and dictating play. Even though they ended up allowing five goals, they were decisively the better team in this game.
The Bolts received massive production from their top two lines - the Steven Stamkos line and Brayden Point line were each on the ice for four Lightning goals. Those six forwards accounted for the first seven tallies before Anton Stralman scored the eighth into an empty net. But just as significant as their offensive production was the way the Lightning used all four lines to control the puck. It was in the first period that the puck possession advantage was the least pronounced (the Panthers forced some turnovers and scored two goals). But even in that period, the Lightning had an edge in play. They outshot the Panthers, 13-9, and recorded three goals. Point's opening goal was on a redirection. Stamkos disrupted a Nick Bjugstad pass in the Florida end so that the puck came to Nikita Kucherov instead. He roofed his shot from the right circle over the left shoulder of James Reimer. Then, during a Lightning power play, Stamkos blistered a left circle shot into the top of the net.
Still, the Lightning only had a one-goal lead after 20 minutes. The lead would be gone at 5:32 of the second when Jonathan Huberdeau scored moments after a Florida power play ended. But the Lightning didn't allow the Panthers to gain momentum from the Huberdeau tally. Instead, they pushed back. And less than two minutes later, they regained the lead. Point made a good play to hold a loose puck in the offensive zone, then juked past Vincent Trocheck. That move created an odd-man situation and Point fed Ondrej Palat at the left circle for a tap-in goal.
From that moment, the Lightning completely dominated play. They tacked on two additional goals in the second to extend their lead to 6-3. The Panthers did score two goals in the third, but the Lightning offset those tallies with two more of their own. And the Lightning's huge advantage in puck possession prevented the Panthers from generating any momentum in their attempt at a comeback.
Certainly, the Lightning don't want to be in the habit of allowing five goals in a game. It's true that the Aleksander Barkov line had a big night offensively for the Panthers. They are one of the top lines in the league and they were able to capitalize on some isolated chances. They had a hand in four of Florida's five goals. But their production shouldn't - and doesn't - take away from the Lightning's performance. It was a well-earned victory, one that came two nights after a regulation loss to Anaheim.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game:
Palat's second period goal, giving the Lightning the lead back for good.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Brayden Point - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- Steven Stamkos - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
- Yanni Gourde - Lightning. Goal and assist.