The Tampa Bay Lightning remain undefeated as they topple the Florida Panthers in what turned out to be a heart pounding shootout.
Tampa Bay Lightning fans knew they were going to be in for a good time tonight when they made their way to the Amalie Arena. What they didn’t know is the night would end with some heart pounding theatrics and one bad call that could’ve sent everything into a tailspin.
Allow us to start at the very beginning. Before tonight’s game, the Tampa Bay Lightning paid tribute to and welcomed home one of the most beloved captains in franchise history, Vincent Lecavalier. After a touching video package that highlighted Lecavalier’s career, Vinny took to the ice as part of the ceremonial puck drop.
This is the part where the niceties ceased to exist and the heat of battle kicked into play. The good news is, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t start off the game down two goals. No matter how you look at it, that is always a good thing.
Unfortunately, things went a little south to start of the second period of play. Just 1:45 into the period, the Tampa Bay Lightning would get their first Power Play opportunity of the night as Florida Panthers forward Vincent Trocheck would head to the box for two minutes for Slashing against Alex Killorn.
This is normally the point in the story where we tell you about some amazing play the Lightning made and tell you they scored the first goal of the night. Unfortunately, this is not how this particular story plays out. Panthers forward Colton Sceviour would score his second goal of the season, shorthanded, opening up the scoring.
Thankfully, the Tampa Bay Lightning we have on the ice today is not the same Lightning team of yesteryear. In other words, the Bolts were not about to take this one lying down. Just under four minutes later, the Lightning would respond with a goal from Alex Killorn, his third of the season, with the assist to Nikita Kucherov.
Just under four minutes before the end of the second period, Lightning would strike once again as Lightning forward Ondrej Palat scored his first goal of the season with the assist to his newly formed linemates Steven Stamkos and Jonathan Drouin.
It’s still very early in the season, but we think it’s pretty safe to say Lightning fans can expect great things out of this line over the course of the 2016-17 season.
So…the Lightning would head into the third period of play with a one-goal lead over the Panthers. Unfortunately, much of the third period was all about the Panthers.
The Panthers would strike with two unanswered goals to start off the period. The first of those goals came at 5:26 in the third period from Vincent Trocheck. The second would come with just over four minutes left in the period at the hands of Panthers defenseman Michael Matheson.
As time continued to tick off the clock, Tampa Bay Lightning fans began to think the team’s undefeated streak was about to come to an end. This is where Lightning captain Steven Stamkos came in like Dikembe Mutombo and say “No, no, no…not in my house!”
With a mere 5.5 seconds left on the clock, Steven Stamkos would put the puck past Panthers goaltender James Reimer and tie the game for the Tampa Bay Lightning. As you can imagine, this sent the game into overtime.
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The overtime period was less than ideal for the Lightning. There were a lot of missed opportunities and bouncing pucks along the way. Unfortunately, this wasn’t even the most frustrating part of the overtime period.
Just before the halfway point in the overtime period, Panthers veteran Jaromir Jagr was sent to the penalty box for tripping Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin. The Tampa Bay Lightning had, arguably, the Panthers’ best player in the penalty box and they still couldn’t manage to capitalize on the Power Play.
On the bright side, the Panthers weren’t able to capitalize during the overtime period, so this baby was headed to a shootout. The bad news is, this is where things start to get really heated for Tampa Bay Lightning fans.
The first shooter to take the ice was Valtteri Filppula was stopped short by Panthers goaltender James Reimer. Next, former Lightning forward Jonathan Marchessault was up for the Panther. Bishop was able to hold strong and the shootout moved to the next round.
From there, it was Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov who would face off with Reimer. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Reimer was able to shut down Kucherov in much the same fashion he shut down Filppula. In return, Bishop was able to shut down Panthers forward Aleksander Barkov.
This is where things start to get a little heated. Of course, by heated we actually mean on the verge of a nuclear explosion. Lightning forward Jonathan Drouin is able to break the ice and put one past Reimer to give the Lightning the upper hand.
Next, it would be Trocheck who would take on Bishop. Trocheck seemingly shoots the puck. The puck sails away from Ben Bishop and the buzzer sounds. This is where the game should have ended. As you can probably guess, the game did not end with Bishop’s save.
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After the buzzer sounded, Trocheck would put the puck in the back of the net. This would cause the referees to confer along the boards before sending the decision to the war room in Toronto.
Now, if you take a look at the video, Trocheck clearly doesn’t take a shot at Bishop as everyone assumed. In fact, it was Trocheck’s stick that ricocheted off of Bishop’s blocker. However, what did happen, whether the refs believe it or not, is the puck ceased to move forward.
You would think this would be a no-brainer, but alas, the all-seeing eye in Toronto decided that forward motion did not cease and the shot was ruled to be a good goal. The crowd at the Amalie Arena was livid. The chant “REF YOU SUCK!!” echoed from the rafters.
Unfortunately, what has been done could not be undone, even under protest from Tampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos. Alas, the play would continue.
These two rivals would go through another two rounds before someone would finally find the back of the net. Both Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman would make an attempt for the Lightning, while Jussi Jokinen and Reilly Smith would take their shot for the Panthers. All four would be shut down.
Finally, it happened. Tampa Bay Lightning rookie Brayden Point would score his first-ever NHL goal to give the advantage back to the Bolts. One more stop would mean the difference between victory and the utter agony of another round. Thankfully, Bishop would make the stop, the buzzer would sound, and the Tampa Bay Lightning would emerge victoriously.
There are only a few points that need touching on after a heart-pounding game like this one. The first and foremost is the Pandora’s Box the NHL has opened up by the horrific call during the shootout. It is plain to see that forward motion had stopped, yet it was deemed a good goal.
You can bet your bottom dollar this is going to come back to bite them at some point during the season. A similar situation is going to occur on another team, and that team’s coach is going to reference this moment right here. As we have said before, you cannot undo what has already been done. The door is now open.
Another thing we noticed over the course of the game was the condition of the ice. The puck seemed to be very bouncy tonight. This became even more evident when players like Jonathan Drouin were seen bobbling the puck.
This is so uncharacteristic of him, but when you think about it, it’s pretty hard to get a handle on a bouncing puck. On the bright side, Drouin did far more good than harm, so all’s well that ends well.
One of the final things we noticed is the Lightning Power Play, which started off the season so well, seemed to be shaky at best tonight. The Lightning had one of their opponent’s best players in the box and they still couldn’t muster a viable scoring chance.
While this is not a greek tragedy this early in the season, this is something the Lightning will want to get in check as the season moves on. Imagine the heights the Lightning could’ve risen to last season if the Power Play unit had been in tip top shape.
While things may have got a little dicey towards the end, the Tampa Bay Lightning did walk away with the victory. At the end of the day, this is what matters the most. The one thing you can say about tonight’s battle with the Florida Panthers is there was never a dull moment.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are now one of just two teams in the NHL who are undefeated. On Thursday night, the Lightning will charge back into the Amalie Arena to take on the Colorado Avalanche. Will the Tampa Bay Lightning extend their winning streak to four? We’ll have to wait and see.