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Panthers Triple Lightning Shot Total, Lose 3-2

There were a lot of good things about the Tampa Bay Lightning’s victory Tuesday night against the Florida Panthers.

Anders Lindback was spectacular in net. They scored early. They showed resiliency after Florida came back to tie it. They didn’t lose their composure or make key turnovers in the defensive zone. They won the game.

However, there were some scary things in the Lightning’s 3-2 win as well.

Florida, for one, failed to capitalize on four power plays, including three in the first period. They outshot the Lightning 39-13, tied the game from a 2-0 hole and the Lightning were much too passive throughout.

Also, the Panthers are the worst team in the National Hockey League with 20 points.

Tampa Bay should be worried that it took Lindback’s best effort of the season (by far) to eke out a victory over the worst team in the league.

Throughout Florida’s power plays, especially the first three, Lindback was stellar, keeping Tampa Bay in the lead. He made 37 of 39 saves in the game, including 10 of 10 on the power play.

With someone like Cedrick Desjardins, who the Lightning sent back to Syracuse prior to the game, Florida surely would have come away with a victory.

“That’s his game,” coach Guy Boucher said. “[That’s the game] he needed — that we needed — since the beginning of the year.”

Since Lindback’s great games have come once every 26 games for the Lightning so far this season, it’s safe to say they can’t expect such an effort every game.

Therefore, it’s safe to say that Tuesday night’s performance should be more alarming than satisfying.

First of all, winning a game in the NHL where the other team outshoots you by three times — it’s not going to happen much. Even if they are a team that likes to throw pucks at the net, a 3:1 ratio is really lopsided.

If not for the front-line chemistry of Alex Killorn, Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier (the line scored twice in the first period), it could easily have been 2-0 Panthers at the end of the first. However, goals from Lecavalier (7) and St. Louis (7) gave the Lightning a 2-0 lead into the intermission.

Another troubling sign was the promptness Tampa Bay showed in blowing its 2-0 lead, allowing a Kris Versteeg goal (2) just 13 seconds into the second and a Tomas Kopecky score(11) more than eleven minutes later.

Panthers Triple Lightning Shot Total, Lose 3-2
Head coach Guy Boucher of the Tampa Bay Lightning directs the players during a time out against the Florida Panthers at the BB&T Center on March 12, 2013 in Sunrise, Florida. The Lightning defeated the Panthers 3-2.
(Joel Auerbach/Getty Images)

The most worrisome thing, though, was the Lightning’s lack of aggressiveness throughout, something that has hampered them all season long. Once in the zone, the Bolts spend way too much time passing the puck around looking for the perfect shot and not trying to score.

It’s like your baseball coach will tell you, ‘If you spend too much time looking for the perfect pitch, you’re going to strike out.’

“Yes, we do pass up way too many shots,” Boucher said bluntly.

The immense talent of the NHL’s leading goal-scorer bailed the Lightning out again, as Steven Stamkos scored his 20th goal 05:30 into the third in what proved to be the game-winner. He scored from a ridiculous angle on the goal line, banking the puck in off of Florida goalie Jacob Markstrom on the power play.

It’s scary to think how bad this team would be without Stamkos (a thought so scary he deserves some MVP consideration), and he was undoubtedly happier to be part of a victory rather than simply padding his goal-scoring lead.

If the Bolts don’t kick up the aggressiveness a notch, the goaltending won’t hold up and they’ll go right back to their losing ways very soon.

That could start as soon as Thursday night when the Bolts take on the New York Islanders and star center John Tavares, who sits just four goals behind Stamkos for the NHL lead. The puck drops at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. ET.

The Panthers, meanwhile, will take their league-low point total and head to Boston to take on the Bruins Thursday night starting at 7 p.m. ET.

A victory can often mask a team’s shortcomings and imperfections. Tuesday night proved that the Lightning still have a long way to go to return to relevance in the Southeast Division.

Taylor Gaines
Tampa Bay Lightning fan pursuing a career as a journalist at the University of Florida.
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