SUNRISE, FL – The Florida Panthers scored three first period goals, but could not hold the lead, falling 4-3 to the Tampa Bay Lightning at the BankAtlantic Center Sunday afternoon. Dominic Moore scored the shootout clinching goal in the fourth round.
It was the third straight game, each at home, that the Panthers lost a game in a shootout. Florida earned three out of the possible six points as a result.
“We can’t be [throwing] away points right now,” forward Kris Versteeg said. “this is really frustrating.”
Florida came out flying, scoring on their first power-play early in the game. After Vincent Lecavalier took a penalty for hooking a minute and a half into the game. Versteeg led the rush down ice on the right side, and as he came through the faceoff circle, he dropped the puck back to Brian Campbell, who was attacking the left side slot. Campbell settled the puck and shot to the top shelf on the right side of starting goalie Mathieu Garon. It was Campbell’s first goal as a Panther, coming at the 1:49 mark of the opening frame.
The action was quiet until the 13:05 mark of the period. Jack Skille had just come out of the box after serving a holding penalty. After a turnover, Skille and Tomas Kopecky led the two-on-one charge. Skille sent a backhand pass to Kopecky whose one-timer from the right side got past Garon to his left for his second goal of the season.
Just 2:16 later, the Panthers got a third goal. Mike Santorelli came in over the blue line on the left side. He sent a soft shot along the ice past Garon. The soft goal gave the Cats a seemingly insurmountable lead. It also knocked Garon out of the game, as he was replaced by Dwayne Roloson for the final 49:39 of the game.
Roloson was flawless, stopping all 29 shots he faced, and earning the number one star of the game. Meanwhile, the Lightning took advantage of a complacent Panthers squad, and began a comeback late in the second.
With Santorelli in the sin bin, Eric Brewer anchored the power play from the point. His initial shot was saved by José Théodore, but the Lightning kept poking at the puck, with Ryan Malone finally getting the puck inside the net. It looked as if Théodore had made the save, but it was clearly past him. It was Malone’s fourth of the season, and the Panthers still had a comfortable lead at 3-1.
Just a minute and 26 seconds later, Matt Gilroy made a spin move from the left point, and skated all the way down to the corner, he then passed the puck through the crease to a waiting Steven Stamkos, who put it home past Théodore. Stamkos’ 10th goal made the game interesting as the teams headed to the intermission.
After a flat first for Tampa Bay, and an equally unimpressive second for Florida, both teams came out with a strong third, but the lone goal came the Lightning’s way. It was another hard-working goal, as Brewer again had the initial shot. With Théodore down to make the save, the Lightning kept poking away, and finally Teddy Purcell put the puck under Théodore and home to tie it up.
“We threw it on a plate and said ‘here you go,’” defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. “3-0 in the league.-.-. If you stop playing and start watching teams, it’s going to bite you.”
Florida maintained puck possession and came close, but they could not get the puck past Roloson. Stephen Weiss almost won the game with just seven seconds left in overtime, but could not get puck over the 42-year-olds outstretched leg.
After three scoreless shootout rounds, Moore put home what ended up being the clincher, as Shawn Bergenheim could not beat his ex-teammate.
The Panthers pack their bags for Canada, as they will face the Toronto Maple Leafs on Tuesday, and Winnipeg Jets on Thursday. Tampa Bay returns home from their brief road trip on Wednesday, when they face the Philadelphia Flyers.
The Latest on Jacob Markström
Panthers’ General Manager Dale Tallon told George Richards of the Miami Herald that a decision on goalies will be made tonight. Most likely, Scott Clemmensen will return to the Panthers and Jacob Markström will be sent to San Antonio. Should that happen, Markstrom would be the everyday starter for the Rampage. Coach Kevin Dineen seemed tight lipped but hinted, at least, that Théodore is his number one in net.
“I liked my goaltender tonight,” Dineen said, “I thought he made some big saves that earned us a point to begin with. [Theodore is] our starter and he’s done a good job for us.”
1) Dwayne Roloson (TB) W, 29 SV
2) Steven Stamkos (TB) G, A
3) Teddy Purcell (TB) GTG