I’m not sure if the Lightning could have suffered a more frustrating defeat. Not after having so many games already this year in which they’ve seemingly played well enough to bank points – but didn’t. Not after seeing Florida’s Aaron Ekblad score a crucial goal on Saturday in the final minute of regulation on a shot that deflected off a Lightning player – and then do it again tonight. Of course, unlike Saturday’s contest, Ekblad’s pinball seeing-eye single goal on Monday turned out to be the game-winning tally and it gave the Panthers a regulation win.
Now, what’s crucial for the Lightning is that they not allow frustration to eat away at their game. They did so many good things in the home-and-home set with the Panthers. They need to keep doing those good things. If they can accomplish that goal, one has to believe that their fortunes will eventually turn.
Just to be clear, the Lightning didn’t play a perfect game tonight. They allowed some dangerous chances off the rush, especially to the line of Aleksander Barkov, Jaromir Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau. And while the Lightning fired a season-high 39 shots on Roberto Luongo, they did not generate many second-chance opportunities. On Saturday, they scored two goals off rebounds from in front of the net and a third off a goal-mouth scramble. In this game, when there were loose pucks in front of Luongo, the Lightning couldn’t get to them. There was one notable exception. During one sequence in the second period, the Lightning had three quick shots in succession. The third of those came from Jonathan Marchessault, who had an open net. He put his shot off the crossbar, though.
Also, while it’s true the winning goal involved some luck for the Panthers, the Lightning had gotten into trouble earlier in the shift when they couldn’t get the puck out of their own zone. Then, when they did, they failed to work the puck deep into the Florida end, a play that would have effectively ended regulation. Instead, the neutral zone turnover allowed the Panthers to counter and set up the shot that won them the game.
So, as mentioned above, it wasn’t a perfect game for the Lightning. But there still was a lot to like about it. For most the night, the Lightning controlled play. Their work ethic and compete level was extremely high, which helped account for their possession and shot advantage. They also did a terrific job killing three penalties against a Florida team that entered the game with the best home power play percentage in the league.
But it wasn’t enough. So the Bolts need more. Let’s see if they’ll find more when they open a three-game homestand on Thursday against the New York Rangers.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game
Ekblad’s winning goal with under 21 seconds left in the third.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game
1.Roberto Luongo – Panthers. 39 saves for shutout win.
2.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. Hard-luck loss. 18 saves.
3.Aleksander Barkov – Panthers. Strong game in return from injury.