By Kenneth Cross
TAMPA – The presence of Nikita Kucherov for the Tampa Bay Lightning is somewhat synonymous with the presence of Tom Brady at quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He’s the cog in the machine, the grape in the wine, or any analogy that fosters reference to a catalyst or the intergal part.
Kucherov is out indefinitely after he went down with a lower body injury in Saturday night’s 2-1 win over the Washington Capitals.
The lack of preparation time for the Lightning to be without Kucherov was a deal-breaker in Tuesday night’s 4-1 home loss to the Florida Panthers. They once again could not score in the first period and maybe even more harrowingly, Tampa Bay was 0-for-6 on the power play.
“We’re missing Kuch – one of the best half-wall guys in the game,” said center Brayden Point. “Our power play runs through him. We didn’t get a ton of time to work on the power play without him, so it’s going to be a work in progress. There’s going to be kinks we’re going to have to iron out, but tonight wasn’t good. A lot of chances but no looks.”
Last season, Kucherov was out with an injury for the entire season, so Tampa Bay had the opportunity to establish it’s power play and it also had a deeper squad that lost key parts in free agency.
“We can’t just slip back into last year,” explained Lightning coach Jon Cooper. “It’s this year. we had ample time to work on things beforehand. The power play with Kuch was pretty darned good. It slipped the last month or what ever but power plays will do that.”
In going 0-for-6, the Bolts’ power play fell to 3-for-15 on the season. One of the biggest problems came in the first period when Tampa Bay had a chance to take the upper hand.
The Lightning spent 1:34 on the 5-on-3 just 4:24 into the first period. They came up empty and that opportunity so early set the tone for a volatile evening.
Cooper reiterated that the power play without Kucherov is a work in progress.
“He’s a big part of our team and a big part in that aspect of the team,” said Cooper. “That was tonight was the difference in the game. It was pretty well contested, a well fought, even game between two good teams. You get a 5-on-3 like that and don’t score, sometimes it can be trouble for you.”
Point lamented the fact that the Lightning didn’t get a shot on the 5-on-3.
“We didn’t put the puck up there enough,” suggested Point. “Simplifying is the key to our power play. It may not be tic-tac-toe goals that we were going to be scoring. I thought our start was pretty good. We were getting chances and skating with them. They get one and you’re behind the eight ball.”
Florida’s Brandon Montour opened scoring as he netted a power play goal at 6:12 in the second to give the Panthers a 1-0 lead. He scored off the draw from Brian Reinhardt and fired it past goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy’s left blocker.
It looked like the Lightning might restore order early in the third period when Point took a cross ice pass from Victor Hedman and deposited it over Panthers goalie Spencer Knight’s right shoulder to tie the game at 1-1 at 2:36. It was Point’s first goal of the season, but the tie and the potential was short-lived.
“It’s been a while since I scored a meaningful one if you go back to last playoffs,” commented Point. “It felt good for a minute and 30 some seconds and that was when they scored the next one.”
The Lightning couldn’t seize control of the game as Aleksander Barkov tipped in an errant puck on the right side of the crease at 3:40 to give Florida a 2-1 lead which it would never relinquish.
Anton Lundell scored his first career goal at 13:19 and Anthony DuClaire posted an empty-netter as Florida wound up outshooting the Lightning, 32-31 although Tampa Bay came hard in the third period in outshooting the Panthers, 15-11, in that frame.
First goal –
Power play – Work in progress.
Like our team as everybody knows is in a big transition period. With the forward ss and the team doesnt get to play together til the very end. A you play a few games and ppl are getting banged up already.
took a cross ice pass from Victor Hedman and deposited it over Spencer Knights right shoulder to tie the game at 1-1. Points first goal of the season..
havent scored a first perido goal – Its how many you have at the end and right now we are 2-2. Its big that we only have 2 games this week. We have to sit on a loss for aa few games here and it will be good for us to work on somethings we need to work on.
They spent a lot fo the night in the offensive zone and didnt get the chance the like but it will take them time they are rookies in this league.
Getting better in 5 on 5 – we jsut didnt score tonight and asisde from the detroit game has been a bit of a them for us. We have to grind away some goals. we had somre arelly good chances we hada couple of breakaways and some chances where things could have happened for us and they didnt. I liked a lot of our looks I think we hit a cross bar and some posts and it didnt go in for us tonight.
two good teams went at it and it turned out to be a one goal game when the lead changed with 13 games left in the game. Unfortuantely we gave up that third one. we are going to be in games like that and we need to find a away to turn the tables. We did it in washington but we couldnt find a way tongiht.
Kucherov – injury –
Vasilevskiy – stop on Anton Lundell breakaway at 17:50 — on a power play and after a 5 on 3
6:12 – Brandon Montour off the draw in the right circle gave Florida a 1-0 lead – scored over Vasilevskiy’s left blocker….
2:36 in the third – Brayden Point
3:41 Aleksander Barkov tap at the net on the right crease
13:26 – Lundell later scored when Florida covered a puck in the neutral zone and then he fed Sam Reinhardt who returned it to Lundell for the score. The key was making Vasy move left to right in the crease and with no defensive resistance, he was on his own.
17:54 – DuClair breakaway goal ices the win for the Panthers…