The Tampa Bay Lightning were blown out in a 5-2 loss to the Florida Panthers on Thursday night. This was the worst performance of the Lightning so far this season.
The Lightning knew they did not play their best game and returned with their most impressive win of the season on Saturday in a 6-1 win over the Panthers.
With Steven Stamkos on the Covid list and Anthony Cirelli out with an upper-body injury, the Lightning blew out the Panthers to maintain their hold on first place in the division.
The Lightning started slowly and did not play an inspiring first period, getting outshot 11-4 as the first period ended in a scoreless tie.
The Lightning came out of the locker room in the second period and went to work. Ondrej Palat scored a power-play goal, Mathieu Joseph scored 90 seconds later, and then Tyler Johnson added two goals to put the Lightning up 4-0 after two periods.
Gemal Smith, called up from the taxi squad, played in his first game since October 2019 added two assists in the Lightning win.
Alexander Volkov scored his first NHL goal in the third period to put the Lightning up 5-1.
The last two periods were the season’s best defensive effort by the Lightning against an excellent Florida Panthers team.
Although outplayed offensively in the first period, a significant moment came when the Lightning had to defend a four-minute power play.
Victor Hedman was called for a double-minor high sticking penalty, and the Bolts were able to kill it off without allowing the Panthers to capitalize.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper said that was a huge turning point in the game “It was huge. Just the way we did it too. Four minutes, I don’t think they had anything brewing for three-quarters of it, and then one stretch we got out there, we were a little tired. But to get us through that, we didn’t want to be chasing the game again. When we did break down, Vasy was there. But that was a huge kill.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves in the win, stopping Panthers forward Anthony Duclair on two prime scoring chances.
The Lightning will play the Panthers for the third game in a row at Amalie Arena Monday night.
Could the Lightning have Cirelli and Stamkos back for the game on Monday night? Too early to say.
Cirelli has missed one game already with his upper-body injury and is listed as day to day. Stamkos needs to clear the NHL Covid protocols, and as soon as he is given the all-clear, he will be ready to go.