SUNRISE, Fl. – It is a word that has hovered over the Tampa Bay Lightning through 11 games this season, but resiliency continues to define the Bolts. Earning their fourth win in extra time this season, the Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers, 4-3, in a shootout Sunday evening at BB&T Center.
“We feel pretty fortunate that we came up with two points,” head coach Jon Cooper said. “We played a pretty solid road game, but it was tough losing [Radko] Gudas with quite a bit of time left on the clock. We were getting a little tired on the back end, but the boys found a way and that’s what they’ve been doing all year.”
“We probably have the quietest 8-3 record in the league and we like it that way,” Steven Stamkos said. “You look at our schedule and we’ve played some pretty tough teams.”
Tampa Bay put themselves ahead early, which Cooper hoped to do, but the Panthers rallied back with two goals less than four minutes apart in the third to force overtime and a shootout, yet Stamkos came up with the game-winning shootout tally in the sudden death round.
“There’s been a lack of results I wanted in the shootout and I’m never going to be a guy that doesn’t want to go in the shootout,” he said. “You want to be an impact player and practice does help. It’s nice to see one go in.”
With Anders Lindback playing just his third game this season and the Lightning losing defenseman Radko Gudas midway through the game the Bolts faced adversity in addition to playing in the second half of back-to-back games. Yet Lindback proved sterling in net, coming up big when he needed to, earning his first win this season, while the blue line made up for Gudas’ absence. Defenseman Matt Carle led the team with 29:24 of total ice time.
“They worked hard and had a couple looks and made it in, but it is the way we responded,” Lindback said. “We really shut them down, didn’t allow them any more opportunities to score and put it away in the shootout.”
The Lightning took an early two-goal lead less than five minutes into the game. The first came 41 seconds into the opening frame as Stamkos led a 2-on-1 with Martin St. Louis into the Panthers’ zone. Stamkos completed the cross-ice pass to St. Louis, who redirected the puck past Florida netminder Jacob Markstrom stick side for a 1-0 lead. Four minutes later the second tally came, this time from Stamkos when he scored on a rebound of Ryan Malone’s shot at 4:35.
Then 14 minutes into the game the Panthers added their first marker of from Shawn Matthias. After a lot of scrambling in front of the net, Matthias was able to finally get a hold of a rebound, backhanding the puck past Lindback for a 2-1 score with 6:12 left in the first.
Gudas made his mark for the Bolts in two ways in the middle period of the game, beginning with a tally on a shot from the blue line that deflected off of Florida blueliner Mike Weaver’s stick and into Markstrom’s net for a 3-1 lead. The power-play goal was Gudas’ first of the season and also extended his point streak to three games.
However later in the second a strange call triggered Cooper. After falling on the boards next to the Panthers’ bench, Florida’s Scottie Upshall was seen squirting Gudas with a bottle of water. Gudas retaliated by slamming his stick on the bench, but was then handed a slashing minor, 10-minute misconduct and game misconduct. The call left the Lightning defense with just five blueliners, meaning the defensive core had to closely manage their time in the third period.
“Something set Gudas off and I heard a lot of loud noise from the bench,” Victor Hedman said. “It’s was a tough one and it meant we had a lot more ice time in front of us. We needed to manage our ice time and not over extend our shifts.”
Tampa Bay found themselves tied in the third period with 11 minutes remaining in regulation. Nick Bjugstad tipped-in a goal past Lindback at 5:39 of the third period from Upshall and Dmitry Kulikov to bring the score to 3-2 in favor of the Lightning. Then the Bolts Ondrej Palat was stripped of the puck by Florida’s Brad Boyes, who went on to score the unassisted goal to knot the game at three at 8:51 and eventually roll into overtime.
Adding two shots in the extra frame, the Bolts finished with 28 shots in 65 minutes of play, while the Panthers added three to finish with 32 heading into a shootout. It was the Lightning's first shootout since October 5 versus the Chicago Blackhawks.
In the shootout Valtteri Filppula tallied in the first round, but Boyes added another in the third round to bring sudden death. Stamkos effortlessly slipped the puck past Markstrom in the fourth round, while Lindback held off Kulikov to finish the shootout, 2-1, in favor of the Bolts and secure a 4-3 win.
UP NEXT – The Lightning head to New Jersey and will exercise a well-deserved day off tomorrow before facing the Devils at the Prudential Center on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. Then with two days in between their next game, Tampa Bay will practice in Raleigh, North Carolina in preparation for their first tilt this season against former division rival, the Carolina Hurricanes, on Friday. It is also the first of back-to-back games that features the St. Louis Blues at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday.