Despite the fact that they lost this game by three goals, the Lightning didn’t play badly. They recorded 35 shots on net and generated numerous scoring chances. But Florida goalie Roberto Luongo was a difference-maker in this one – his stellar goaltending held the Lightning to only two goals. At the other end, the Panthers were much more efficient at converting on their scoring chances. When the opposing goalie is on his game the way Luongo was and the other team converts on enough of its chances, the result is often going to be a loss.
The Bolts netted the game’s first goal when Tyler Johnson’s left circle shot got past a screened Luongo during a first period Lightning power play. The Bolts could have added to their lead, but Luongo produced several terrific saves to keep his team’s deficit at one. Eventually, the Panthers tied the game when Vincent Trocheck snapped a shot from the left circle past the glove of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Before the period ended, the Panthers grabbed the lead. Jaromir Jagr’s power play goal came with 1:58 left in the first.
So even though they outplayed the Panthers for much of the opening frame, the Lightning trailed by a goal after 20 minutes. They continued to generate good looks in the second period, but couldn’t tie the game. With just over four minutes left in the second, the Panthers won an offensive zone faceoff and Alex Petrovic’s right point shot deflected off the legs of both Jiri Hudler and Victor Hedman before ricocheting into the net.
Up by two goals entering the third, the Panthers settled into a solid defensive structure. Early in the frame, a strong shift from their top line of Aleksander Barkov, Jagr and Jonathan Huberdeau led to a fourth goal. The Lightning, playing the second half of a back-to-back against a rested opponent, weren’t able to keep up the pace they had set in earlier in the game. But in the closing minutes, after they pulled Vasilevskiy and went on the power play, the Lightning cut the Florida lead to 4-2 with another power play goal. But they would get no closer. Jussi Jokinen netted an empty-netter in the final minute during another Lightning power play to set the final at 5-2.
Clearly, this wasn’t a perfect game for the Lightning. They made some mistakes along the way and, coupled with some bad puck-luck, paid for them. But the Panthers made mistakes, too. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Luongo was able, for the most part, to erase those mistakes with his spectacular goaltending.
Lightning Radio Big Moment of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
Luongo’s key saves throughout the game.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Roberto Luongo – Panthers. 33 saves.
2.Aleksander Barkov – Panthers. Two assists.
3.Tyler Johnson – Lightning. Goal. Seven shots.