TAMPA – Jay Bouwmeester summed up the Panthers’ performance here Saturday night in four words.
“Overall, pretty weak effort.”
Bryan McCabe concurred. “We got outplayed for the most part, especially in the first period.”
Coming into the game off a shootout loss to the Lightning 24 hours earlier at BankAtlantic Center, the Panthers skated onto the ice here at the St. Pete Times Forum in something close to a coma, and it cost them in a 6-4 loss.
“We got what we deserved tonight,” said Panthers’ coach Peter DeBoer. “Had we got anything more than that based on what we did, it wouldn’t have been justified.”
Despite being outshot 21-3 in the first period and trailing 2-0, the Panthers did come back from a two-goal deficit. Power plays goals :26 apart late in the second period from Nathan Horton and David Booth tied the game at three.
But with 5.4 seconds remaining in the second period, Vinny Lecavalier scored his second goal of the game to give the Lightning a 4-3 lead. Third period goals by Ryan Malone and Martin St. Louis gave the Lightning their third consecutive win while scoring a season-high six goals.
The Panthers were no match for the line of Lecavalier, St. Louis and Malone, who accounted for four goals and 11 points.
“We would have had momentum going into the third period tied 3-3,” said defenseman Bryan McCabe. “But you give up a goal late and it kills you, and we couldn’t find it late.”
The Panthers, who were 9-2-3 in their 14 games leading up to the two-day Christmas break, have played less than spectacular since returning to the rink.
Tonight’s Mayors Jewelers Three Star Selections of the Game are:
1st: Martin St. Louis 2nd: Vincent Lecavalier 3rd:David Booth
Mayors is the Official Jeweler of the Florida Panthers, please visit www.mayors.com or your local South Florida Mayors location.
“Two days off certainly didn’t help us,” McCabe said.
Goalie Tomas Vokoun, who faced 51 shots here in November and 42 Saturday, said; “For some reason we didn’t execute our game plan well today, and it showed.”
“I think we had to pick up some points when it was 3-3, but we made a crucial mistake with five seconds left (in the second period),” he added. “We’ve gotten a little away from what we did right before the break and what brought us where we are. It’s unfortunate.”
The Panthers started so poorly they went more than 14 minutes at one point in the first period without a shot on goal. But despite their start, they did battle back in the second period. Booth pulled the Panthers to within one at 3:09 of the second period, and after Lecavalier scored just 1:43 later, the Panthers tied the game on Horton’s seventh goal of the season and Booth’s second of the night and 14th of the season.
But the Lightning were too much on this night. Lecavalier’s second goal of the night – and the one that broke the Panthers’ back with 5.4 seconds remaining in the middle period – came when he took the rebound off a St. Louis shot out of midair with his glove, put the puck down on the ice, and blasted it past Vokoun.
“Every time (the Lecavalier line) was on the ice it seemed like they scored,” DeBoer said.
Before the game, DeBoer decided to start Vokoun, who was replaced by Craig Anderson the previous evening in the third period. DeBoer said Vokoun likely wasn’t his best coming out of the two-day break – “It’s even tougher for goaltenders than players” – and said he would have afforded Anderson the same second chance.
When asked about Vokoun’s performance after the game, DeBoer said; “I think about the same as everybody else, not very good.”
The Panthers have a day to prepare for Monday’s game at BankAtlantic Center against the Canadiens.
Kamil Kreps left the game after the first period and did not return due to an upper body injury… Keith Ballard, who saved two goals Friday night, had four blocked shots… Defenseman Jassen Cullimore traveled to Tampa with the team but did not dress for the third consecutive game due to a bone bruise in his hand… Nick Tarnasky, who brawled Friday evening with Evgeny Artyukhin, was back in the lineup… DeBoer said Rostislav Olesz continues to heal from a groin injury and isn’t expected to be in the lineup anytime soon…
1 - 0 TBL
2 - 0 TBL
2 - 1 TBL
Martin St. Louis