Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers
Take Over 5 Goals
By Will Rogers
The 22-22-5 Tampa Bay Lightning attempt to win back-to-back games for only the second time since Thanksgiving when they visit their Sunshine State rivals, the 20-19-10 Florida Panthers on Thursday night. Both teams get set to play their 50th game of the season with the Panthers one point ahead of the Lightning in the standings (50-49).
The Lightning had gone 2-7-1 in 10 games prior to Tuesday but they scored four goals in the third period on to knock off the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2. Andrei Vasilevskiy came up big with 34 saves on Tuesday and he has turned aside 90 of the 96 shots he’s faced over his last four appearances. “Sometimes you need your goaltender to be your best player,” Tampa Bay head coach Cooper told reporters. “And he was (Tuesday).”
The Panthers are 9-9-9 since Tom Rowe took over for Gerard Gallant as coach. Florida went winless on a four-game road trip (0-2-2) where it managed eight goals total, and comes home where it is 11-9-3, including a 3-1 victory over Tampa Bay on Nov. 7. “The guys are frustrated … everyone’s frustrated,” Rowe told The Miami Herald. “We’re not winning enough games. “We’re not scoring a lot 5-on-5. Some guys have to give us more. We have to get more from our top-end guys.”
The Panthers aren’t winning enough, losing all four games on their recent trip out west, twice losing in OT, as they captured just two out of a possible eight points!
Tampa Bay, which made it to the 2015 Stanley Cup Finals but lost to Chicago, is hoping that Tuesday’s four-goal third period can ignite the team. The Panthers are hoping a return hohe will similarly give the team a spark Five Eastern Conference teams are in great position to make the postseason: the Washington Capitals, Columbus Blue Jackets, Pittsburgh Penguins, Montreal Canadiens and New York Rangers. The Ottawa Senators are in good shape to be the sixth team, leaving 10 clubs battling for two spots. The Maple Leafs lead the Panthers and Lightning in the points race (55) and also have three games in hand. The Lightning and Panthers have their work cut out for them. Both are not likely to get in. The Panthers and Lightning have a lot of work to do to dig out of the hole they have created for themselves.
Tonight, I’ll play the Over.