The Tampa Bay Lightning (22-22-6) sat one spot out of last place in a crowded Eastern Conference before Thursday’s game against the Florida Panthers (21-19-10). In the final game of their six-game road trip, the Lightning looked to take home two points as a reward for their prolonged trip around the country in an important contest between two struggling teams that finished at the top of the Atlantic Division a season ago.
With Andrei Vasilevskiy getting his second consecutive start in goal, the team looked to build off of their momentum from Tuesday’s 5-2 win in Chicago. Unfortunately for the Lightning, they’d only come away with one point, as former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault’s power play goal 1:49 into OT gave the Panthers a 2-1 victory over Tampa Bay. The Lightning finished up their road trip with a 2-2-2 mark, capturing only six of a possible 12 points heading into the All-Star break. Tampa Bay goes into the break in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with 50 points, which puts them six points out of both the final wild card spot and third place in the Atlantic Division.
In the first period, Panthers’ forward Jussi Jokinen opened the scoring when he broke free from Lightning defenders during a Tampa Bay power play and scored a shorthanded goal, his fifth of the season, with just under ten minutes played in the first period.
Only 1:38 later, the Lightning retaliated with a Nikita Kucherov power play goal on a nice setup across the ice from Jonathan Drouin. Drouin and Alex Killorn picked up the assists on Kucherov’s 19th goal of the season.
With the score tied at one throughout the rest of regulation, the play of Vasilevskiy helped the Lightning stay in it. He made 35 saves, going toe-to-toe in a classic goaltending duel with Florida’s James Reimer, who ended the night with 31 saves.
— Tampa Bay Lightning (@TBLightning) January 27, 2017
Both teams traded quality scoring opportunities over the final two periods, while the third period featured Lightning RW Gabriel Dumont throwing off the gloves and getting a few nice uppercuts on Florida’s Greg McKegg. At the end of regulation, momentum appeared to be in the Lightning’s favor, but a Tyler Johnson penalty for interference ended that, as he turned the puck over and interfered with Florida’s Jason Demers, leading to a power play.
With the Panthers holding a 4-on-3 man advantage, Marchessault was camped out at the side of the Lightning’s net, where he buried a one-timer past Vasilevskiy off a feed from Keith Yandle for the game-winning goal. It was Tampa Bay’s second loss to Florida in three meetings this season.
Next Tuesday, the Bolts will come home to face the Boston Bruins in another crucial Atlantic Division showdown. Puck drops at 7:30 pm.