Tampa Bay Lightning's Jason Ward (16) connects with Florida Panthers' Jozef Stumpel (15), after his hit on Mathieu Darche (21) during the second period of an NHL hockey game Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2007, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Mike Carlson)
By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
Dazed and confused.
That’s how the Panthers must have felt after the first seven minutes of Wednesday’s 3-1 loss here in Tampa to the Lightning. Starting the game dull and sloppy, the Panthers allowed two goals in the first 6:37 of the game and could never catch their Southeast Division rivals.
It was a shame, really. A victory would have given the Panthers a five-point cushion on the Lightning in the Southeast, moved them into seventh in the Eastern Conference, and would have given them a .500 record. Instead, they left the St. Pete Times Forum angry and frustrated.
“You give them two goals right off the bat,” said GM and coach Jacques Martin. “Two turnovers and the puck is in your net. You have to be ready to compete hard. Some guys make some turnovers, other guys have to compete through that. We expect more out of our defensive core with experience, and your forwards should create more opportunities.”
Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who kept the Panthers in the game with another strong effort in goal, said; “You can tell me we were ready to play but we weren’t.”
“You’ve got to be ready from the first whistle to the last.”
Basically, said defenseman Ruslan Salei, the Panthers “gave (the Lightning) those two goals.”
“You have to come out ready,” he added. “We weren’t ready.”
Just 1:48 into the first period, Jan Hlavac swatted a pass from Brad Richards past goalie Tomas Vokoun for a 1-0 Lightning lead. Less than four minutes later, Martin St. Louis made it 2-0 when he banged home a rebound off a shot from Vinny Lecavalier.
The Panthers were sloppy and couldn’t sustain any pressure in the Lightning zone. No doubt, losing 16 of 19 first-period faceoffs didn’t help. But it was a confusing start since the Panthers knew the Lightning would come out quick in an effort to stop a six-game skid.
Quote of the Game
“We gave them two goals right off the bat. Some turnovers, and the puck’s in your net. Against a team like that, you can’t give them easy goals, you’ve got to make them earn those goals.” - Panthers GM and head coach Jacques Martin
Stat of the Game
Kamil Kreps netted the second goal of his career when he scored at 8:46 of the second period.
The Panthers mounted a comeback early in the second period when Kamil Kreps blasted a shot from the right wing under the arm of Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist to make it 2-1. But the Panthers then took three consecutive penalties: two by Ville Peltonen and another by Cory Murphy. That doesn’t count a too-many-men-on-the-ice penalty earlier in the period.
“We took so many penalties we delayed our game,” Peltonen said.
The Panthers penalty killers and Vokoun played huge during the penalties, holding the Lightning to six shots. Although they had their chances in the third period, the Panthers couldn’t capitalize and Lecavalier scored the Lightning’s third goal into an empty net with :57.1 seconds remaining.
Vokoun said the Panthers problem isn’t a lack of talent.
“We basically give points away,” he said. “We keep talking and talking and these are huge games. I don’t think I can stress how important these points are, and you have to be ready from the first puck drop to the last second. It’s a 60 minute game. Even if you through results out the window, I don’t think necessarily it’s decided if we win or lose. It’s how it happens and what’s happening around it.
“Mistakes are going to happen. I don’t think we lose because of that. It’s not being mentally sharp. Not making easy plays. It’s not like they did something special. We basically gave them two goals.”
Two goals that led to the loss of two points. And, in Vokoun’s words, very big points.
Defenseman Bryan Allen (facial laceration) did not make the trip to Tampa…Forward Anthony Stewart, called up earlier in the week from the Panthers’ American Hockey League affiliate in Rochester, N.Y., started the game with Brett McLean and David Booth…The Panthers had outscored the Lightning in the first period this season 5-2 prior to Wednesday’s game…
1 - 0 TBL
Martin St. Louis
2 - 0 TBL
Mike Van Ryn
2 - 1 TBL