"It was a disappointing way to go into the break," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. "You're coming off three good games and then all of the sudden you come up with today's game. But give [Tampa Bay] credit, they responded [with] urgency that was appropriate."
The Lightning jumped out to an early 1-0 lead when Erik Cernak fired a shot through traffic that was re-directed past Sergei Bobrovsky by Brayden Point just 41 seconds into the opening period.
Later in the period, Victor Hedman doubled Tampa Bay's advantage to 2-0 with a blast from beyond the circles that pinged off the post and into the net at 15:06. Not long after that, Mikhail Sergachev sent the Panthers into the first intermission in a 3-0 hole after wiring home a power-play goal at 18:03.
"They got the early lead in the first shift and then kept pushing the whole period, and then they had three goals" Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. "Against this team it's tough to come back from any lead. They're a good team, but we needed to play a lot better."
On the power play early in the second period, Jonathan Huberdeau managed to get Florida on the board when he tipped an Aaron Ekblad shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy to cut the deficit to 3-1 at 2:47.
Continuing to convert on the power play, Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov scored goals on the man advantage at 5:53 and 9:52, respectively, to give the Lightinng a 5-1 lead after two periods of play.
With 1:55 remaining in regulation, Hedman made it 6-1 with his second goal of the night.
Bobrovsky finished with 28 saves; Vasilevskiy stopped 29 of 30 shots.
"It's a tough one to swallow before the break," Bobrovsky said. "You want to look at this in a positive way, to put that behind us, have a good break and then go back to work. We came out flat. We got outworked, outplayed in all areas. We can't do that, especially against a division opponent."
The Panthers (18-13-5) now sit just one point ahead of the Lightning (18-13-4) in the Atlantic Division.
Here are five takeaways from Monday's loss in Tampa Bay…
1. HUBERDEAU ON A ROLL
No Panther is heading into the holiday break hotter than Huberdeau.
Extending his point streak to four games, the 26-year-old winger got the Panthers on the board when he slid into the slot and tipped a long point shot from Ekblad past Vasilevskiy and into the back of the net on the power play to trim Florida's deficit to 3-1 at 2:47 of the second period.
Video: FLA@TBL: Huberdeau deflects in power-play goal
Already leading the Panthers in points (48) and assists (34), Huberdeau's goal moved him into a tie with Brett Connolly for the most on the team with 14. During his four-game point streak, he's registered 11 points (three goals, eight assists) -- including a pair of four-point performances.
Additionally, his 48 points are also tied for the seventh-most in the league.
2. MORE POINTS FOR EKBLAD
With an assist on Huberdeau's goal, Ekblad continues to pile up points from the blue line.
Finding his way onto the scoresheet in six of the last eight games, the 23-year-old has notched eight assists in that span. Ranking first among Florida's defenseman in goals (5) and second in assists (18) and points (23), he also leads the entire team with a plus-16 rating in 35 games.
Unfortunately, however, Ekblad exited tonight's game in the second period with an injury. Quenneville said the team's top-pairing defenseman will be re-evaluated after the break.
"We'll see how he is," Quenneville said. "Going into this break, coming out of it with three days is going to be good for him and good for us. Then we'll get a better idea."
3. SPECIAL TEAMS BATTLE
The Lightning did a lot of their damage on the power play tonight.
Entering tonight's matchup with the second-ranked man advantage in the league (28 percent), Tampa Bay converted on three of its four chances with the extra attacker against the Panthers.
"They scored a lot of goals on the power play and as a team you don't want to give power plays and take penalties against," Barkov said. "Overall, we've got to be a lot better, starting with me."
Florida ranked 13th in the league on the penalty kill with an 81.8 percent success before tonight.
4. STRALMAN RETURNS
Anton Stralman showed off his toughness tonight.
With 14:42 left in the third period, the 33-year-old defenseman headed to the locker room after taking a shot from Ryan McDonagh off of the top of his helmet. But with only a few minutes left in the game, he returned to Florida's bench sporting both a smile and, of course, a new helmet.
After the game, Quenneville commended the team's trainers and said Stralman is doing fine. In his first season with the Panthers, Stralman has recorded three goals, eight assists and a team-high 55 blocks while averaging the second-most ice time on the club per game (20:55).
5. HOLIDAY BREAK
Now, we rest.
After wrapping up their two-game road trip tonight, the Panthers will now shut down for a few days to celebrate the holidays before returning to the ice for a back-to-back set this weekend.
On Saturday, they'll return to BB&T Center to host the Detroit Red Wings. Just 24 hours after that, they'll close out their two-game homestand against the Montreal Canadiens on Sunday.
"Let's some days off here and enjoy your families, friends and the celebration of Christmas," Quenneville said when asked about his message to the team. "We'll come back to practice and a morning skate. We have a home game against Detroit, and that's our next biggest game."
Florida owns an 11-7-2 record in Sunrise this season.
For tickets to upcoming home games, click HERE.