The out-manned Tampa Bay Lightning were shut out by the Florida Panthers 4-0 in Sunrise Monday night to wrap up the 2020-21 regular season.
The Lightning had a couple of excellent scoring chances but could not get anything past Panther’s goaltending Chris Driedger.
Ondrej Palat, Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Steven Stamkos, Mikita Kucherov, Pat Maroon, and Barclay Goodrow were all out for the Lightning in the season finale.
Maroon was suspended for the game due to an altercation from the game on Saturday.
Palat, Hedman, McDonagh, and Goodrow were all out with injuries. Kucherov has been out all season, and Stamkos has missed the last month of the season with a lower-body injury.
The Lightning did make NHL history tonight as they become the first team in history to start an all-black forward line. Matthieu Joseph, Daniel Walcott, and Gemel Smith all started the game for the Lightning. Somewhere Willie O’Ree is smiling.
Anson Carter, one of the most prolific black scorers in NHL history and now a hockey analyst for NBCSN, said that this means a lot. “For the general public, I think it’s huge. Not only are they playing for the team, but the defending Stanley Cup champs. So, this isn’t a team that’s not in the playoffs, that’s rebuilding, that’s struggling. But, these are three Black players that are playing for the Stanley Cup champions.”
The Lightning already employs two black coaches, Nigel Kerwin, who is the video coach, and Frantz Jean, the goaltending coach.
The Lightning ends the regular season with a three-game losing streak, their longest streak of the season. The Lightning also loses the seasons series to the Panthers five games to three.
What’s even more concerning is the way the Lightning lost these last three games. First, the Bolts were outscored 14-3, which is not how you want to enter the playoffs.
Second, the Bolts allowed an average of five goals in three straight games—the worst three-game stretch of defensive hockey for the Lightning this season.
If you’re a Lightning fan, you have to be concerned going into the playoffs.
I understand the Lightning were missing two of the top 10 players in the league in Stamkos and Kucherov. I also am aware that Hedman did not play in the 4-0 loss.
When the Lightning won the President’s Trophy in 2019, they finished with 128 points. But, unfortunately, they were not sharp down the stretch and had nothing to play for the last month of the season. The Columbus Blue Jackets promptly swept the Bolts in the first round of the playoffs.
I am not confident about this first-round matchup with the Florida Panthers. I am somewhat nervous as the Panthers are playing inspired hockey under Joel Quenneville.
The Lightning limped toward the finish line and had the home-ice advantage to play for and could barely muster any offense in this two-game series.
Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has been sub-par these last two games against the Panthers, letting in nine goals.
Sometimes, your best players on the ice have to put the team on their backs and carry the team to a win. Vasilevskiy has done that in the past but was not able to do that in these two games against the Panthers.
The Lightning will have some time to get ready for their first-round playoff series with the Panthers. The NHL has yet to set the dates and times for the first-round series.
Florida will host games one, two, six, and seven, while the Lightning will host games three, four, and six.