Florida Panthers GameDay
Thunder Struck: Tampa Bay Lightning 8, Florida Panthers 4
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SUNRISE — All good things must come to an end and, for the Florida Panthers, on Sunday night it was their franchise-record winning streak finding its demise.
The Panthers who won their 13th consecutive game on Saturday night, found themselves down going into the third period against the Tampa Bay Lightning and were not able to come all the way back, losing their regular-season home finale 8-4 at FLA Live Arena.
Florida ended up going 34-7-0 at home during the regular season.
Which is pretty good.
Tampa Bay split the four-game regular season series with the Panthers and had three separate leads of two goals and was able to build on it as the third period went along.
The Lightning led 3-1 in the first period before the Panthers tied it; Tampa Bay went into the third up 5-3.
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Sunday night looked like a game being played in which the two participants are ready for the regular season to end and just get these playoffs going.
Tampa Bay opened the scoring on a Nikita Kucherov shot from the right circle on the Lightning’s initial shot of the evening.
Florida appeared to tie the score moments later when Claude Giroux drove in and punched the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning challenged claiming Mason Marchment interfered with Vasi — and the goal was taken off the board.
Sam Reinhart got the goal back less than a minute later, flying a shot through from 40 feet out.
The Lightning got two more goals before Brandon Montour scored on a 30-foot slapshot with 2:32 remaining before the break.
Florida came charging out of the gate, Marchment tying the score 59 seconds in by driving in and poking the puck over Vasilevskiy’s pad.
The Lighting retook the lead on a pretty goal from Nick Paul while killing a penalty — and it didn’t take long for the bad blood between the two teams to rise to the surface.
A number of scuffles broke out, although nothing like the final two games played between these teams to end the 2021 regular season.
Sam Bennett did get into one heady scrap, throwing one haymaker after another against Mikhail Sergachev.
With the game decided, Ryan Lomberg and Erik Cernak got into it pretty good with Lomberg leaving the ice waving to the crowd like usual.
Lomberg, Marchment and Jonathan Huberdeau — as well as coach Andrew Brunette — all got tossed in the final minutes with game misconducts.
On the ice, Florida tried to get back into the game in the third but at 3:34, Brayden Point got one past Sergei Bobrovsky (who had replaced Spencer Knight) to make it a three-goal game.
Reinhart, who became the fourth player on the Panthers with 30 goals this season earlier in the game, pulled Florida within two again on a power play with 12:56 left to play in the game.
Knight was pulled after Tampa Bay’s fifth goal as he made 12 saves on 17 shots.
— By beating the Panthers on Sunday, the Lightning now have 106 points and sit very solidly in third place of the Atlantic Division; this all but ensures Florida and Tampa Bay will not meet in the first round of the playoffs.
They could meet in the second round, however.
Tampa Bay has now won three straight games and five of its past six.
— The Panthers still have a four-point lead on Colorado for the top spot in the NHL standings. Both teams have three games left. Florida will fly to Boston on Monday and play the Bruins on Tuesday before ending the regular season in Ottawa (Thursday) and Montreal (Friday).
GR’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. NIck Paul, Tampa Bay
2. Nikita Kucherov, Tampa Bay
3. Sam Reinhart, Florida
PANTHERS ON DECK
FLORIDA PANTHERS AT BOSTON BRUINS
- When: Tuesday, 7 p.m.
- Where: TD Garden, Boston
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: WQAM 560-AM, SiriusXM
- Season series — Tied 1-1: @Florida 4, Boston 1 (Oct. 27); @Boston 3, Florida 2 SO (Oct. 30)
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play
- All-time regular season series: Boston leads 57-35-6, 6 ties
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Number one star of the game, hands down, without a doubt, Wes McCullough
I can only recall three coaches being tossed within the past several seasons (Gallant, Cooper and Brunette). All three were tossed by McCauley. He can’t handle criticism. Sure he can be dramatic but has an extremely thin skin.