Gordon Weigers ( )
Gordon Weigers ( )

Golden Knights Doubled Up By Blues, 4-2

Vegas moves on to face Dallas on Friday

by Gordon Weigers

 December 12, 2019

The Vegas Golden Knights (16-13-5) were topped by the St. Louis Blues (19-8-3), 4-2, on Thursday night at Enterprise Center.

HOW IT WENT DOWN
After Mackenzie MacEachern gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead, Max Pacioretty converted his own rebound to tie the game. William Carrier scored late in the first period to give the Golden Knights a 2-1 lead heading into the second period, but an early goal from Oskar Sundqvist tied the score at 2-2. Jaden Schwartz and Robert Thomas scored less than one minute apart to give the Blues a 4-2 lead which they carried through the final horn.

TURNING POINT
Schwartz and Thomas scored just 39 seconds apart to turn a 2-2 score into a 4-2 edge for the home team. That jolt was enough to carry St. Louis to the win on home ice.

TOP PERFORMERS
Max Pacioretty: Pacioretty scored his 12th goal of the season in his 100th game as a Golden Knight.

William Carrier: Carrier’s goal was his first since Nov. 13 and his fourth of the season.

Oskar Sundqvist: Sundqvist had two points (1G, 1A) for the Blues in the victory.

LOOKING AHEAD
The Golden Knights complete their back-to-back against the Dallas Stars at 5 p.m. PT at American Airlines Center. Catch the game on AT&T SportsNet and FOX Sports Radio 98.9/1340.

Jameson Olive ( )
Jameson Olive ( )

5 Takeaways: Panthers Face Adversity Again in Loss to Islanders

by Jameson Olive

 December 12, 2019

SUNRISE, Fla. – The Florida Panthers aren’t used to struggling to find the back of the net.

After scoring at will for the majority of the season, the Panthers struggled to light the lamp for the second straight game in a 3-1 loss to the New York Islanders at BB&T Center on Thursday.

Entering tonight’s matchup averaging the fourth-most goals per game in the league (3.43,) the Panthers have scored just one goal in each of their last two contests. In the four games prior to that two-game slump, they’d found the back of the net a combined 14 times while going 3-1-0.

“We didn’t create enough good scoring chances,” Panthers captain Aleksander Barkov said. “We had a couple, but not as much as we wanted. We’ve just got to play better offensively and spend a little less time in our own zone… We’ve just got to get in the offensive zone and stay there.”

Following a scoreless opening frame, the Islanders broke the ice 49 seconds into the second period on a power-play goal from Devon Toews. Shortly after that, New York was sent right back to the man advantage, where Mathew Barzal scored to double the lead to 2-0 at 4:40.

At 9:36, Mike Hoffman beat Thomas Greiss on a 2-on-1 break to cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1.

With three seconds left in regulation, Anders Lee potted an empty-netter to lock in the 3-1 final.

Greiss finished with 32 saves for the Islanders, who saw their record improve to 21-7-2 with the win, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 27 of 29 shots for the Panthers, who now sit at 15-11-5.

“We just didn’t have our best game in this game,” Barkov said. “Obviously they’re a really good team. They play tight defense and have a really good offense. We just couldn’t get really going, but it was still a tight game. [Bobrovsky] was really good in net and gave us a chance to win.”

Here are five takeaways from Thursday’s loss in Sunrise…

1. HOFF THE RAILS

Hoffman netted the lone goal for the Panthers tonight.

After Brett Connolly chipped the puck out from along the boards, Mark Pysyk batted it down with his glove and headed up the ice on a 2-on-1 break with Hoffman on his left. Taking a pass from Pysyk, Hoffman then buried a wrist shot to cut Florida’s deficit to 2-1 at 9:36 of the second period.

Panthers fall to Islanders, 3-1

05:01 • December 12, 2019

“A crisp pass right on the tape,” Hoffman said of Pysyk’s dish during a second-intermission interview with FOX Sports Florida. “I tried to get it off quick and was able to beat the goalie.”

Extending his point streak to four games, Hoffman has registered two goals and three assists in that span. Ranking second on the Panthers in goals (12), the 30-year-old winger also leads the team in shots (93) and has the fifth-most points (23).

2. CONN THE MIC

In addition to his assist on Hoffman’s goal, Connolly also contributed to tonight’s broadcast.

To hear what an intense battle in the crease sounds like, or if you’re curious about what is said on the bench, check out FOX Sports Florida’s mic’d up segment with the veteran winger below.

In his first season with the Panthers after joining the team on a four-year contract this summer, Connolly has looked like one of the biggest free-agent steals of the offseason. As it stands now, the 27-year-old winger leads the team with 14 goals, while also ranking sixth in points with 22.

Over his last 12 games, Connolly has scored a team-high eight goals.

3. BOB BACK AT IT

Even in defeat, Bobrovsky was lights out once again for the Panthers.

After making a season-high 46 saves in Tuesday’s 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning, the 31-year-old netminder stopped 27 of 29 shots against the Islanders. With both of his goals-allowed coming while New York was on the power play, he finished a perfect 23-for-23 at even-strength.

“He was solid right off the bat,” Quenneville said. “In the first period he was good; in the second period, busy. He had a solid game.”

Starting the last four games, Bobrovsky has certainly settled into a groove between the pipes. In that stretch, he’s denied a combined 136 of 142 shots for an outstanding .958 save percentage.

“My job is to give the team a chance to win,” said Bobrovsky, who owns an 11-8-4 record in his first season with Florida. “I try to do my best to do that. It was still a good hockey game. It was a tight game and fun to play. Again, we’re going to forget that one and get ready for Boston.”

4. THE POSSESSION BATTLE

The difference in tonight’s game came down to special teams.

While the Islanders went 2-for-4 on the power play, the Panthers didn’t convert on any of their three chances. Entering tonight, Florida had netted four goals on the man advantage over its previous four contests and sat seventh overall in the league with a 23.4 percent success rate.

At even-strength, however, the game was a lot closer.

In addition to outscoring the Islanders 1-0, the Panthers had more shot attempts (45-42) and high-danger shot attempts (4-3) at 5-on-5, while also finishing tied in scoring chances (12-12).

Overall, Panthers coach Joel Quenneville wants to see his team spend more time with the puck.

“I don’t think we had our puck management,” he said. “Our puck management wasn’t very good – our puck support, our pace. [New York] won those battles. We needed more possession time.”

5. SATURDAY SHOWDOWN

We’ve got a big one this weekend.

Just over a month after piecing together an historic comeback in a 5-4 shootout win at Boston on Nov. 12, the Panthers will host the Atlantic Division-leading Bruins in Sunrise on Saturday.

Owning a 20-7-6 record, the Bruins will enter the game looking to shake out of a season-long, five-game skid following a 3-2 loss across the state tonight against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After tonight’s loss, Florida is 3-3-0 on their current nine-game homestand.

“As you go through a season the games get more important and more important,” Quenneville said. “You find out about what it’s going to take to win important games. We’ve got to learn to find a way to step up to the plate when it counts and, right now, everything counts.”

Bryan Burns ( )
Bryan Burns ( )

Burns: 3 Things we learned from beating Boston (again)

Bryan Burns on the power play surge, the Bolts staying out of the box and a big goal from the Captain

by Bryan Burns

 December 12, 2019

The Boston Bruins might lead the Atlantic Division and rank second overall in the National Hockey League standings.

But the Tampa Bay Lightning have had the Bruins’ number this season, continuing their domination over their division nemesis since the playoff series between the teams two seasons ago.

Tampa Bay outworked the Bruins in a 3-2 victory Thursday night at AMALIE Arena, the Lightning building a two-goal lead in the third period thanks to Steven Stamkos’ eventual game-winner, the second of his two goals on the night, and holding on late under the Bruins’ relentless pressure. The Bolts have won both meetings against the Bruins this season (Tampa Bay was a 4-3 shootout winner in Boston Oct. 17), six of the last seven in the regular season against the Bruins and 10 of the last 12 including the playoffs.

The Lightning have lamented their inability in recent weeks to pick up wins against the top teams in the NHL despite their improved play.

Now the Lightning have that confidence-building, quality win over one of the League’s heavyweights they can point at to show how much their game has improved in the last month.

Here’s how they were able to pull off the win.

Point’s go-ahead PPG

00:39 • December 12, 2019

1. POWER SURGE
With a 1-0 lead at the first intermission, Boston started to take control in the second period. The Bruins had sustained time in the offensive zone and fired off multiple shots while in there. During a 4-on-4, the Bruins held possession for nearly the entire two minutes and strung together probing passes that unlocked the Bolts if not for the heroics of netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“We kind of lost our way a little bit in that 4-on-4, and (Vasilevskiy) made some amazing saves to keep that game tied and we carried on from there,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “There are going to be breakdowns in games, and when he can come up big for you, that’s what we needed.”

At 12:29 of the second, Alex Killorn drew a tripping penalty on John Moore for the second time in the game. The Lightning needed to gain a little momentum as the game was starting to get away from them a bit.

Instead, they completely flipped the ice.

Nikita Kucherov dug the puck out of the corner following a face-off loss and found a wide-open Steven Stamkos at the hash marks. The Lightning captain had time and space to pick his spot and went five-hole through Boston netminder Tuukka Rask to tie the game 1-1.

“Kuch made a tremendous play,” Stamkos said. “We lost the draw, but he lifted I think it was Chara’s stick maybe and knew I was going to be there. I had all day. I figured that Tuukka wasn’t expecting a five-hole shot, so I think I surprised him a little bit.”

It was what the Lightning did after scoring on the power play that was most impressive, however.

The Bolts continued to pressure the Boston goal and had multiple opportunities to take the lead, notably Ondrej Palat had a backhand rebound opportunity on the back post that fluttered just wide. And while the Lightning were creating plenty of scoring chances for themselves, they weren’t giving any up to the Bruins.

In the third period, the Lightning continued to press, and they were rewarded when Brayden Point scored from the front of the net on a power play. Tampa Bay took its first lead at 2-1 and never trailed again.

“To get the special teams battle tonight against a team with a quality power play like that was huge,” Stamkos said.

Postgame | Cooper

2. STAYING OUT OF THE BOX
Boston’s power play has been one of the best in the NHL for a few seasons.

The Lightning learned that lesson the hard way the first time the two teams met, the Bruins scoring all three of their goals on the power play, including one with 3:05 remaining to force overtime, the Bolts overcoming their special teams woes to eventually win in a shootout.

Tampa Bay knew entering Thursday’s game a major key to beating the Bruins would be to stay out of the penalty box.

And they were disciplined in their approach, the Lightning allowing just two power plays to the Bruins, which they were able to kill with relative ease.

Boston never got a chance to change the tone of the game or swing momentum on the power play because the Lightning didn’t give them those opportunities by committing needless penalties, and the few penalties the Bolts did commit, they were able to kill off with an aggressive penalty kill that didn’t let the Bruins get comfortable in the offensive zone.

“You have to try to win that special teams war,” Cooper said. “For Stammer to get that PP goal right out of the gate was huge for us, but, again, a couple power-play goals and not to give any up, especially only take two penalties, that’s what we have to do, especially if we want to compete with the big boys in the East.”

Postgame | Stamkos

3. EXTENDING THE LEAD
The Lightning held a 2-1 advantage for much of the third period but knew they’d probably need to score one more to give themselves some breathing room.

Stamkos provided that insurance marker with his second goal of the game, the eventual game-winner coming with 4:47 to go.

With the puck in the offensive zone and the Bruins trying to get it out, Anthony Cirelli and Alex Killorn disrupted just enough on the forecheck to keep Boston uncomfortable. Patrice Bergeron tried to chip a puck out of the zone and ahead to David Pastrnak, but Stamkos swung around to knock the pass out of the air and gain control.

With open room in front of him, Stamkos skated into the high slot and flicked a wrist shot high to the glove side. The puck deflected off the shoulder of Rask and went over his glove and into the back of the net.

The Lightning would need that pivotal goal too. With 3:15 remaining, John Moore found a loose puck at the side of the net and lifted a shot over the shoulder of Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and into the net to cut the margin to one. The Bruins pulled the goalie with a little more than two minutes remaining and continued to pressure the Bolts’ goal, but the Lightning stayed focused defensively to close out the win and not let the Bruins get a high-quality scoring chance in their attempt to tie.

“You’ve just got to continue this. Whatever you say about our first how many games we’ve played, we have actually been playing pretty well here for the last month,” Cooper said. “Our issue was just our attention to detail in our own end and doing things like that, but when you get into these close ones, we got the lead and we extended it, which we needed to because we gave up that late one. But to be able to weather through that and close out games, it just kind of builds that confidence with the group.”

Dave Mishkin ( )
Dave Mishkin ( )

Mishkin’s Musings: On points pace, playing well and my on-air goof

At the 30-game mark of the season, Dave Mishkin breaks down the Bolts’ performance and clarifies a

mix-up on the call in Sunrise

by Dave Mishkin

December 13, 2019

35 Points After 30 Games: I’ve written about the playoff-pace metric earlier in the season. Typically, 96 points is a “safe” total to ensure a postseason berth. Teams aim to maintain a pace of 12 points every 10 games. That translates to 96 points after 80 games, with two extra contests at the end of the season to pad that amount.

The Lightning had 12 points after 10 games and 24 after 20. In their third 10-game segment of the season (which just ended with last night’s contest against Boston), the Lightning gained 11 points. So despite some up-and-down results recently, they’re holding steady regarding their points pace.

As far as where things stand vis-à-vis the other teams within the Atlantic Division, the Lightning, who have had a busy schedule over the past few weeks, still own games in hand on every other Atlantic Division club.

How They’re Playing: Would the Lightning liked to have banked more than 11 points over the past 10 games? Of course. They left some points on the table in games 21-30 – mostly in home contests. The Lightning went 2-0-1 on the road in this 10-game segment, but just 3-4-0 at home. Still, as the players and coaches have expressed recently, they feel as though they’re playing, generally, good hockey.

It’s true that they’ve made some costly mistakes, errors that they have to own. Against Minnesota, they struggled with the all-important shift after a goal. They had two poorly-executed line changes in their loss to Carolina. Some isolated puck management issues led to crucial opposition goals against St. Louis, Washington, and the Islanders.

But those have been either intermittent errors or short lapses within games. As a whole, the Lightning are executing well. Specifically, they’re playing very hard and consistently bringing a high compete-level to the ice. As a result, they’ve won lots of puck battles. This has led to plenty of puck possession. Sometimes, that hasn’t translated to a victory. In many of their recent losses, opposition goalies have neutralized their possession advantage. Or the other team has defended well without the puck.

Still, the building blocks for success are there. And they were a key component to their 21-30 segment wins over Buffalo, Nashville, San Jose, Florida, and Boston. If they continue to play with the same level of urgency, they’ll get rewarded more often than not.

Recap: TBL 2, FLA 1

05:00 • December 10, 2019

My Mea Culpa: During the third period of Tuesday’s game at Florida, Panthers forward Brett Connolly tipped in a point shot. His stick blade was very close to the crossbar. Officials ruled it a goal on the ice – the tally would have cut the Lightning lead to 2-1 with about half a period left to play. But then it went to video review and was ruled a “no-goal”.

On the air, I wondered if this was a coach’s challenge. (Officials didn’t announce anything – they just went straight to a review). But I remembered that, during a game earlier this season on Long Island, the Lightning had challenged a potential Anders Lee high stick.

One of the new aspects to the video review rule this year is that coaches can challenge for a “game stoppage”. This would include a high stick. But a failed challenge results in a minor penalty.

The Connolly play was a close one. I commented that the Lightning successfully “rolled the dice” because they risked losing the challenge and having to go on the PK.

Well, I was wrong. The Lightning didn’t ask for a coach’s challenge. The game stoppage challenge for a high stick doesn’t apply when the puck goes directly in the net. In that case, it’s an automatic review. (Similar to a puck that may or may not have been kicked in the net.)

So to clarify. On a play in which a player deflects a puck into the net, the player’s stick cannot be above the height of the crossbar. If there’s any doubt, officials automatically review it. No coach’s challenge.

If a player plays a puck with his stick above the height of his shoulders, it’s a high-stick infraction. If the opposing team touches the puck next, play continues. If not, there’s a whistle. If the call is missed and a goal is scored, the defending team can issue a coach’s challenge.

Thankfully, the Lightning didn’t have to worry about a challenge on the Connolly play. And my apologies for mixing things up.

Dave Mischkin ( )
Dave Mischkin ( )

Mishkin’s Extra Shift: Lightning 3, Bruins 2

Radio broadcaster Dave Mishkin recaps the Lightning’s 3-2 victory over the Bruins on Thursday

by Dave Mishkin

December 13, 2019

In a game that had a playoff-like intensity, the Lightning delivered a strong performance and, similar to Tuesday’s contest against Florida, were deserving of the victory.

Unlike the first meeting between the teams, a contest in which the Bruins netted three power plays goals and allowed none, the Lightning won the special teams battle. They went 2-3 on the power play and killed off both Boston man advantages. But even through the Lightning were outscored, 2-1, at five-on-five, this wasn’t simply a special teams victory. Outside of a 10-minute stretch to begin the second period, the Lightning also outplayed the Bruins during even-strength play.

In the first period, the Bruins netted an early goal off the rush, but the Lightning owned most of the puck possession. They earned that possession advantage by winning a number of puck battles in the Boston defensive zone. What they were unable to do in the opening 20 minutes, however, was translate that possession time into shots and scoring chances. The Bruins defended well in front of goalie Tuukka Rask and held the Lightning to just 7 first period shots. Still, the Lightning forced the Bruins to expend a lot of energy in the Boston d-zone, which may have paid dividends later in the game. During the final 30 minutes, the Bruins, who had played in Washington on Wednesday, weren’t as tight defensively.

Before that happened, however, the Lightning had to endure their shakiest segment in the game. The Bruins dominated play in the first half of the second period. Andrei Vasilevskiy made three key saves (two on David Pastrnak and one on Jake DeBrusk) during that time to keep the deficit at one. Around the halfway point of the second period, the Lightning began pushing back. Alex Killorn drew a penalty on John Moore at 12:29 and the Lightning scored six seconds into the ensuing power play. They lost the faceoff to begin the power play, but Killorn and Nikita Kucherov tracked the puck into the corner and forced a turnover. As a result, the Bruins were out of position to defend Steven Stamkos, who was left unguarded in the slot. Kucherov hurried the puck to Stamkos, who tied the game.

That goal completely shifted momentum. For the rest of the period, the Lightning applied relentless pressure and generated a handful of scoring chances. That trend continued into the third – and during another power play chance, the Lightning took their first lead. Moments after Rask denied Kucherov with a brilliant save, Kucherov slipped a no-look backhand pass to Brayden Point, who was positioned in front of the net. Point one-timed his shot into the top corner.

The Lightning didn’t let up after getting the lead. The effort included a crisp penalty kill halfway through the final frame. Then, in the closing minutes, they added a key insurance goal. Anthony Cirelli and Killorn forechecked deep in the Boston end and disrupted a Bruins clearing attempt. Stamkos intercepted the puck just inside the offensive blue line, skated to the high slot, and zipped a shot over Rask’s glove.

As it turned out, the Lightning needed that goal, because John Moore chipped in a loose puck from the side of the net with 3:15 left. But the Bruins would get no closer.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):
1.Steven Stamkos – Lightning. Two goals.
2.Jan Rutta – Lightning.
3.Nikita Kucherov – Lightning. Two assists.

Bill Meltzer ( )
Bill Meltzer ( )

POSTGAME 5: Snowed In

Giroux scores late, but Avs hang on for 3-1 win in Colorado

by Bill Meltzer

December 12, 2019

HERE’S WHAT HAPPENED
The injury-riddled Philadelphia Flyers fell short against a very good Colorado Avalanche team, 3-1, at the Pepsi Center on Wednesday night.

Matt Calvert scored once and Mikko Rantanen tallied twice as the Avalanche put a 3-0 stranglehold on the game. Claude Giroux cut the gap to 3-1 with 5:12 remaining in the game, but Colorado closed out the game.

Carter Hart played much better than his stats (3 goals against on 28 shots) would suggest, but absorbed the loss. Pavel Francouz flirted with a shutout for nearly 55 minutes and stopped 31 of 33 shots to earn second-star honors.

Three Stars:
1st: Mikko Rantanen (2g)
2nd: Pavel Francouz (32 of 33 shots)
3rd: Nathan MacKinnon (1a)

TURNING POINT
Mikko Rantanen scoring the second goal. Especially considering he had just been denied by an unbelievable save from Carter Hart minutes earlier, Rantanen’s goal stopped the Flyers relentless charge and momentum they had built through the entire second period.

Hart’s extraordinary glove save

00:35 • December 11, 2019

MELTZER’S TAKE
* The Flyers struggling with the pace Colorado dictated in a largely lopsided first period. Thanks almost solely to Hart, Philly managed to keep the damage to a 1-0 deficit at intermission. Shots on goal were 13-8 in Colorado’s favor (shot attempts were 23-10). A failed clear by Robert Hägg and a deflected shot off the post produced a Calvert goal at 5:21.

* After Colorado had each of the last nine shots in the first period, the Flyers controlled the early portion of the middle stanza as they established a forecheck and some extended cycling to generate an 11-0 shot edge through 8:21.

* The Flyers went on to have a 17-5 shot edge (27-8 attempt edge) in the second period. Francouz came up with several tough saves, including a couple on the Couturier line. However, the save of the period belonged to Hart — a 10-bell lateral movement glove save on Rantanen off a 2-on-1 saucer pass from Nathan MacKinnon.

* In front of the net, Matt Niskanen got caught in between two Avalanche wingers; Landeskog and Rantanen. Justin Braun pursued Nazem Kadri behind the net, and the Flyers forwards were behind the play. Rantanen was wide open point blank on the right side to take a Kadri passout and make it 3-0 at 2:31 of the third period. Giroux got the goal back on a centering feed by Voracek. The Flyers were unable to draw any closer. Third period shots were 10-8 Colorado.

Giroux moves to backhand for goal

00:39 • December 11, 2019

* In general, the Couturier line was fine and Flyers in general dominated the 2nd period, but the Hayes’ line had a tough night — they were out for all 3 against — and the bottom six didn’t get much going chance-wise except for a shift here and there where there were opportunities off Colorado turnovers.

STATISTICALLY SPEAKING
* Jake Voracek recorded an assist – he has points in six of his last nine games, and leads the Flyers over that nine-game span with nine points (2g-7a).

* David Kase made his NHL debut tonight… He logged 7:47 of ice time, posted two shots on goal and had two hits…

* Kase also became the sixth Flyer to make their NHL debut this season, all of which have been forwards (Twarynski, Bunnaman, Farabee, Rubtsov & Frost).

* Ivan Provorov led the Flyers with 23:47 of ice time. He had three shots on goal, six total attempts, two hits and a team-leading three blocked shots.

* The Flyers travel to Minnesota to take on the Wild on Saturday night. Puck drop is 7 p.m. on NBCSP & 97.5 The Fanatic.

THEY SAID IT

12/11 POSTGAME: Vigneault

02:09 • 1:32 AM

12/11 POSTGAME: Players

01:49 • 1:35 AM

Gordon Weigers by Gordon Weigers ( )
Gordon Weigers by Gordon Weigers ( )

Balanced Attack Leads Vegas To Victory vs. Chicago, 5-1

Marc-Andre Fleury made 28 saves in return for Golden Knights

by Gordon Weigers

December 11, 2019

The Vegas Golden Knights (16-12-5) used goals from five different players to skate to a 5-1 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks (12-13-6) on Tuesday night at T-Mobile Arena.

HOW IT WENT DOWN
After the first 20 minutes passed without a score, the Golden Knights filled the Chicago net with three second-period goals. Reilly Smith got the scoring started by netting his 13th goal of the season before Deryk Engelland buried his first of the year. Smith set up William Karlsson for a shorthanded goal in the final minute of the frame to put Vegas up 3-0 through two periods. Early in the third, Mark Stone set up Max Pacioretty to give the Golden Knights a 4-0 edge. Ryan Reaves tacked on a goal late in the game and despite a late Chicago goal, Vegas held on for the 5-1 win.

TOP PERFORMERS
Marc-Andre Fleury: Fleury stopped 28 of 29 shots in his first game back from a two-week absence.

Reilly Smith: Smith led all Golden Knights skaters with two points (1G, 1A) in the victory.

William Karlsson: Karlsson’s second shorthanded goal of the season allowed the Golden Knights to maintain momentum late in the second period.

STAT OF THE KNIGHT
Engelland’s goal was his first of the season and third goal since the start of the 2018-19 season. Two of those three goals have come against the Blackhawks.

ATTENDANCE: 18,319

LOOKING AHEAD
Vegas gears up for a quick two-game trip which begins Thursday night against the St. Louis Blues at 5 p.m. PT at Enterprise Center.

Jameson Olive ( )
Jameson Olive ( )

by Jameson Olive

 December 10, 2019

SUNRISE, Fla. – “This one stings,” Anton Stralman said bluntly.

After winning three of four games to kick off their nine-game homestand, the Florida Panthers came up just short in a 2-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday night at BB&T Center.

“It was a big game,” Stralman said. “Not just for me personally, but for our team and where we are in the standings and where they are in the standings in our division. That was a tough one.”

Steven Stamkos broke the ice tonight, sliding the puck past an outstretched Sergei Bobrovsky and into the net to give the Lighting a 1-0 lead at 6:42 of the first period. In the second period, Alex Killorn doubled Tampa Bay’s advantage to 2-0 when he cashed in on a rebound at 4:51.

Making his third consecutive start, Bobrovsky stopped a season-high 46 shots.

“Unfortunate to lose that hockey game,” Bobrovsky said. “It was big for us, but we still did some good things. I thought we defended well. The guys, again, allowed me to see the puck and cleared the rebounds. I’ll try to take the positive out of this game. It’s unfortunate to lose to a division opponent, but we still have lots of hockey [ahead]. We’ll take the positive and move on.”

With 8:53 left in the third period, the Panthers appeared to finally get on the board and cut their deficit down to 2-1 when Brett Connolly tipped in a goal past Andrei Vasilevskiy. However, after a video review, officials deemed Connolly’s stick was over the crossbar and disallowed the goal.

Finishing with 27 saves, Vasilevskiy’s shutout bid was spoiled by Evgenii Dadonov, who tapped in a rebound from the doorstep to trim Florida’s deficit to 2-1 with two minutes left in regulation.

“It was one of those nights where you’re just trying to get something going,” Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said. “We didn’t have much, whether it was pace or possession. [Tampa Bay] played a good game. They played it like it was the biggest game of the year for them. It was one of those games.

“It was a good measuring stick for us to meet that type of challenge where it’s our most important game. It’s a learning curve. It’s something that we’ve got to be better and expect a much harder performance from our team. As you go along we’re going to have some big games, and we’re going to have to match that emotion.”

The Panthers, who occupy third place in the Atlantic Division at 15-10-5, will look to get back in the win column when they continue their homestand Tuesday against the New York Islanders.

Here are five takeaways from Tuesday’s loss in Sunrise…

1.BIG NIGHT FOR BOB

Big save after big save, Bobrovsky kept the Panthers in tonight’s game.

Making at least 14 stops in each period – including 18 in the second alone – the 31-year-old veteran finished the night with a season-high 46 saves. Facing down Tampa Bay’s second-ranked offense, he also stopped 13 of 14 high-danger shots, according to NaturalStatTrick.com.

“I thought he was outstanding again,” Quenneville said. “He gave us a chance.”

Continuing to build up momentum after backstopping the Panthers to huge back-to-back wins over the Columbus Blue Jackets and San Jose Sharks in less than 24 hours this past weekend, Bobrovsky has looked nearly infallible over his last three starts while stopping 109 of 113 shots.

“I tried to build the good emotions and the good shape out of those back-to-back games,” Bobrovsky said. “I just enjoy it, have fun and do my best to try and help this team win.”

2. A LATE GOAL

In the waning minutes of regulation, Dadonov finally got the Panthers on the board.

With goaltender pulled in favor of the extra attacker, Mike Hoffman sent a wrist shot on net that caught a piece of Jonathan Huberdeau before landing on the goal line and being tapped in by Dadonov, who cut Tampa Bay’s lead down to 2-1 with exactly two minutes left on the clock.

Dadonov taps puck into the twine

00:34 • December 10, 2019

Ranking second on Florida in goals (12) and fourth in points (24) this season, Dadonov has recorded four points over his last five games, including a pair of goals. Against the Lightning tonight, the 30-year-old veteran winger also chipped in two takeaways over 19:10 of ice time.

3. HUBERDEAU MOVES UP

Huberdeau has separated himself from Aleksander Barkov – for now.

With an assist on Dadonov’s goal, the 26-year-old winger took over sole possession of Florida’s scoring lead with 37 points (11 goals, 26 assists), breaking a tie with Barkov, who has 36 points.

Putting a dent in the scoresheet in 23 of 30 games to start the season, Huberdeau has been on a tear in recent weeks, racking up 24 points (six goals, 18 assists) over his last 18 games. Tied with Barkov for the team-lead in assists, his 26 helpers are also tied for the sixth in the league.

Huberdeau is 23 points shy of matching Olli Jokinen’s franchise record for career points (419).

4. A RARE OCCURANCE

The Panthers aren’t used to having off-nights on offense.

Entering tonight’s matchup averaging the fourth-most goals per game in the league (3.52), Florida’s one-goal performance against the Lightning marked just the second time this season that the team has been held to fewer than two goals.

Despite generating 28 shots on goal, only 16 of those came at 5-on-5. The other 12 came on the power play, where they went an uncharacteristic 0-for-3. Overall, they finished the game trailing Tampa Bay in both shot attempts (80-65) and high-danger shot attempts (18-9).

“I think our whole game fell apart,” Stralman said. “We didn’t generate anything offensively. I don’t’ think we had much of a forecheck. All in all, it was a poor performance.”

5. SUNSHINE SERIES

With three games now in the books, the battle for the Sunshine State is nearing its end.

After dropping two of the first three games against the Lightning, Panthers won’t have to wait long for a chance to split the series season series with their rivals. In less than two weeks, the teams will reconvene at Amalie Arena for their final matchup of the regular-season on Dec. 23.

Dave Mischkin by (www.tampabaylightning.com)
Dave Mischkin by (www.tampabaylightning.com)

Radio broadcaster Dave Mishkin recaps Tampa Bay’s win over Florida on Tuesday

by Dave Mishkin

 December 10, 2019

On this night in Sunrise, the Lightning were decidedly the better team and deserving of the regulation win. They dominated puck possession during five-on-five play and, if not for Florida goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, would have won by a wide margin.

The Lightning’s best defense was their offense. For long stretches throughout the game, they had the puck and that possession advantage prevented the Panthers from going on the attack. The Lightning not only managed the puck well (so they cut down on potentially costly turnovers), they also attacked the Florida net relentlessly. They matched a season-high with 48 shots on net and, in terms of even-strength shots on goal, they held a 40-19 advantage. (This Florida total includes the shots taken during the six-on-five segment late in the third). But it wasn’t just the shot volume. They generated a high number of scoring chances, too. They were dangerous both off the rush and during offensive zone possession sequences.

The Panthers likewise are a skilled offensive team and they have an excellent power play. They were at their most dangerous when they went on the man advatnage. They posted nine power play shots during their three opportunities. But Andrei Vasilevskiy was outstanding in stopping all nine of those shots, including a point-blank save on Jonathan Huberdeau in the first period.

There were a few close calls that ultimately evened out. The Lightning hit a couple of posts during the third period when the game was still 2-0. The Panthers thought they had scored midway through the third when Brett Connolly deflected a point shot into the net. But officials determined on video review that Connolly’s stick was above the crossbar, so it was disallowed.

The Panthers eventually did score a sixth-attacker goal with two minutes left. But the Lightning defended well during those final 120 seconds to secure an important regulation victory.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game:
1.Alex Killorn – Lightning. Goal and assist.
2.Andrei Vasilevskiy – Lightning. 27 saves.
3.Sergei Bobrovsky – Panthers. 46 saves.

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Radio broadcaster Dave Mishkin recaps the Lightning’s 5-1 loss to the Islanders on Monday

by Dave Mishkin
December 9, 2019

In many ways, this game was similar to the earlier contest played between the teams in New York back on November 1. In both, the Islanders were able to grab a 2-1 lead in the second period. The Lightning pressed hard in the third but were unable to tie it. Then the Islanders converted an insurance goal after benefitting from a fortunate bounce. They would add a couple of more goals in the closing minutes.

But the games weren’t identical. This one turned on a couple of key sequences. In the second period, moments after Cory Conacher couldn’t convert on a breakaway, the Islanders scored off the rush. Ross Johnston finished a perfect shot from the right circle. A few minutes later during a Tampa Bay power play, the Lightning had a four-on-two. But they fumbled the puck and allowed a counter breakaway shorthanded goal to Josh Bailey.

So the Islanders were more opportunistic than the Lightning in building a 2-0 lead. But the Lightning pushed back and controlled play for the rest of the period. Steven Stamkos’ goal at 15:35 of the second pulled the Lightning to within a goal. And the Bolts carried that momentum into the third. They dominated puck possession during the early minutes of the period and generated several excellent chances. But they couldn’t find the tying goal. Then, the Isles took advantage off a bad break in the Lightning d-zone. A puck deflected from behind the net to the slot, where Brock Nelson was standing. He put in his own rebound to extend the New York lead. Shortly thereafter, the Lightning thought they had scored their second goal, but Victor Hedman’s tally was erased due to a successful New York challenge for offside. Nelson and Anders Lee scored two late goals to set the final at 5-1.

The Lightning played very hard in this game (This includes the line of Mitchell Stephens, who was making his NHL debut, Conacher, and Carter Verhaeghe. They were relentless in pursing pucks and winning puck battles). The Bolts recorded 71 shot attempts. They hit a handful of posts. But also, the Islanders, as they have done throughout the season, defended very well in their own end. The Lightning didn’t get many rebound shots because the Isles boxed out effectively in front of their net. And goalie Semyon Varlamov was solid in net, providing his teammates with key saves when they needed them. His best one was a sprawling glove stop on Pat Maroon at the side of the net early in the third period.

In the end, it was a game closer than the final score might indicate. One in which the Lightning, with a little more puck luck, may have deserved a better fate. But they can’t dwell on the result – instead, they need to get ready for a key divisional contest on Tuesday against the Florida Panthers.

Lightning Radio Three Stars of the Game (as selected by Phil Esposito):

1. Brock Nelson – Islanders. Two goals.

2. Josh Bailey – Islanders. Game-winning SHG.

3. Semyon Varlamov – Islanders. 31 saves.