Panthers Succumb To Vasilevskiy Masterclass, Shocked By Bolts

Florida Panthers Lightning

Photo by JC Ruiz

SUNRISE, FL A situation went from bad to worse for the Florida Panthers who have now dropped their second-straight game as they couldn’t get by Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and fell by a score of 5-3, despite dominating the shots on goal.

Coming off one of their more disappointing losses of the season, a 4-0 shutout in Carolina, Florida looked to rebound. It felt like the opponent couldn’t have been better – the Lightning, whom the Cats beat 9-2 back in early February. However, the sloppy play from their loss in Raleigh returned to Sunrise, and Tampa did nothing but make them pay all game.

While two straight losses are now what an otherwise red-hot team wants to see as we get closer to the postseason, it’s not time to panic just yet, as this is hopefully a short slump that Florida’s experiencing. Nevertheless, the mistakes the Cats made tonight need to be addressed before it’s too late.

The Early Bird Gets The Advantage

The first mistake of the game for Florida occurred just 20 seconds in, as a breakaway from Steven Stamkos led to a wrister that got by Sergei Bobrovsky for an early lead for Tampa. As it would turn out, this was a lead that the Lightning never relinquished for the rest of the game.

A similar situation happened in the second period, just three minutes instead of 20 seconds. Up 2-0 already, another breakaway wrister (Assisted by former Panther Anthony Duclair) got by Bob to bump up Tampe’s lead to 3-0.

Now, the Panthers are known for their comebacks, such was the case when they were down 3-0 against Dallas a few days ago and came back to win the game. But Florida can’t rely on coming back in every game they play, and these cheap goals early on in the period have set them back.

To their credit, they were a few minutes away from another incredible comeback. But that just didn’t happen tonight.

So Many Chances, So Little Results

A recurring trend in games that Florida loses is that they’re usually the dominant team when it comes to shots on goal. On the days when they’re extremely dominant, they usually come out on top. Such was the case tonight… except they didn’t win.

Your eyes don’t deceive you. Florida managed more than double the shots on goal compared to Tampa but only managed two of their goals off a short-hander by Matthew Tkachuk and a power play goal by Sam Reinhart. They held on to the puck for the majority of the game, but getting a break was not something they found a lot in this game.

A big reason for this was a stellar performance by Vasilevskiy, who recorded 47 total saves, including 18 on power plays. He made some incredible saves, including a very distinct one in which he appeared to kick a puck away midair.

It felt like the Panthers vs Lightning matchup of prior years where the Cats could not get by Tampa’s defense – a far cry from their previous matchup in which Florida’s offense could do no wrong.

The Panthers even made the gutsy decision to take out Bob in exchange for an extra attacker with three minutes to go in the game. A risky move to leave a net open for that much time, usually most teams tend to take out their goalie with about 90 seconds left, give or take. It ultimately didn’t translate to anything, and Tampa got their empty netter eventually.

Hopefully Just A Slump

Is Florida in the midst of a slump? Maybe. Despite winning two of their last four, they’ve given up 13 goals in that stretch, not necessarily a great stat line for a team with a usually high-quality defense.

The Panthers had seven power play opportunities and only walked away with a single goal to their name. For the most part, their power play offense has been solid, but more needs to be done with capitalizing on the man advantage.

Florida only has so many games left to get this right. They currently stand with a 45-19-4 record and are in second place in the Atlantic Division, just trailing behind Boston. If the playoffs were to start now, they’d likely take on Philadelphia in the first round.

They’ll stay in Sunrise for a matchup against the 38-25-4 Nashville Predators this upcoming Thursday, March 21st at 7:30 pm.

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