This game had three distinct chapters, one for each period. The Lightning dominated play in the first, owning the vast majority of the puck possession and building a 1-0 lead. The script flipped in the second, as the Panthers controlled play and held the Lightning to just three shots. But each team scored twice in the frame, so the Lightning maintained a one-goal lead after two. Then, in the third, following Brayden Point's early power play goal, the Lightning closed out the game well, snuffing out any potential Florida comeback bid.
The Lightning put on a puck management clinic in the first. They cleanly moved the puck up the ice, maintained possession for long stretches, forced turnovers with an aggressive forecheck and effectively dislodged pucks from Florida forwards when the Panthers attempted to go on the attack. Nikita Kucherov snapped a 10-game goal skid when he wristed home a shot from the bottom of the left circle at 4:02. That would be the only goal the Lightning scored in the period, but they had several other close calls. In one sequence, Point hit the post from the slot and Yanni Gourde just slid the rebound wide of an open net.
In terms of puck management, the second period was the exact opposite of the first. The Panthers were the ones to move pucks smoothly up the ice, while the Lightning struggled to execute passes cleanly. As a result, the Lightning had little sustained offensive zone pressure. But of the three shots they recorded in the period, they scored on two of them. Anton Stralman joined a two-on-two rush, creating an odd-man chance for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos and Stralman teamed up on a give-and-go - Stamkos redirected Stralman's return feed into the net. Then late in the period, as the Lightning finished up a penalty kill, Mathieu Joseph pushed the puck down the ice. Ryan Callahan outraced Aaron Ekblad to reach the puck. Then he outmuscled Ekblad to control it and earn a breakaway chance. He finished a backhand shot four seconds after the penalty ended.
Those two isolated chances and goals helped the Lightning take a lead into the third. But the second period was a rough one. Not only did they cede possession time to Florida, they allowed goals on the shift after both the Stamkos and Callahan tallies. However, they regrouped in the third and started the period with the same crisp puck management they had displayed in the first. Roberto Luongo replaced James Reimer in the Florida net and the Lightning greeted Luongo with two early scoring chances. Moments later, they went on a power play and converted. J.T. Miller and Point worked a nifty passing play in which both players moved in opposite directions. Miller then set up Point at the right circle and Point one-timed a shot into the top of the net at 4:25. Unlike what happened in the second period, the Lightning produced a strong shift right after that goal and kept it up for the rest of the game. They held the Panthers to just six third period shots, defended tightly and effectively cleared pucks from the d-zone. They also produced an excellent penalty kill just past the midway point of the frame.
This game featured several terrific performances for the Lightning. Callahan, back in the lineup due to an injury to Ondrej Palat (day-to-day), had an impressive night, both with his physical play and his breakaway goal. Louis Domingue set the Lightning franchise record by winning his 10th consecutive game - he made some key saves throughout the night, especially during Florida's second period surge. Kucherov netted two goals and added an assist. Anthony Cirelli and Gourde were both puck hounds on the penalty kill, which went 4-4. Miller had two splendid assists. Stralman, also with two assists, was a force defensively.
Next, the Lightning begin a three-game homestand on Tuesday at home against the Western Conference-leading Calgary Flames.
Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
- Ryan Callahan - Lightning. GWG.
- Nikita Kucherov - Lightning. Two goals and assist.
- Anton Stralman - Lightning. Two assists.