On this night in Sunrise, the Lightning were decidedly the better team and deserving of the regulation win. They dominated puck possession during five-on-five play and, if not for Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, would have won by a wide margin.
The Lightning's best defense was their offense. For long stretches throughout the game, they had the puck and that possession advantage prevented the Panthers from going on the attack. The Lightning not only managed the puck well (so they cut down on potentially costly turnovers), they also attacked the Florida net relentlessly. They matched a season-high with 48 shots on net and, in terms of even-strength shots on goal, they held a 40-19 advantage. (This Florida total includes the shots taken during the six-on-five segment late in the third). But it wasn't just the shot volume. They generated a high number of scoring chances, too. They were dangerous both off the rush and during offensive zone possession sequences.
The Panthers likewise are a skilled offensive team and they have an excellent power play. They were at their most dangerous when they went on the man advatnage. They posted nine power play shots during their three opportunities. But Andrei Vasilevskiy was outstanding in stopping all nine of those shots, including a point-blank save on Jonathan Huberdeau in the first period.
There were a few close calls that ultimately evened out. The Lightning hit a couple of posts during the third period when the game was still 2-0. The Panthers thought they had scored midway through the third when Brett Connolly deflected a point shot into the net. But officials determined on video review that Connolly's stick was above the crossbar, so it was disallowed.
The Panthers eventually did score a sixth-attacker goal with two minutes left. But the Lightning defended well during those final 120 seconds to secure an important regulation victory.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Alex Killorn - Lightning. Goal and assist.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy - Lightning. 27 saves.
- Sergei Bobrovsky - Panthers. 46 saves.