TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Lightning trailed the Panthers for nearly the entire game Saturday, and while they battled back within one goal, they ultimately lost 5-3. That fifth goal for Florida came on an empty-netter in the final minute.
Brayden Point scored the Lightning’s first goal of the game in the first period for his team-leading 18th of the season. Erik Cernak scored in the second and Mathieu Joseph scored in the third. On the Cernak goal, Victor Hedman recorded his 400th career assist, becoming just the third Lightning player to reach that milestone. Heddy also had an assist on the Joseph goal, bringing that career total to 401. The veteran defenseman leads the Lightning with 41 points (33 assists, 8 goals).
After the game, Head Coach Jon Cooper and Point agreed that they played well and showed signs of progress, but it wasn’t enough to win– or even send it to overtime and get a point out of it.
“I thought we actually played better tonight than we did the other night when we won,” Cooper said. “Sometimes that happens but it was just tough because we just shot ourselves in the foot tonight. You get three (goals) — in this league– you should be able to get points when you score three and we don’t get anything. Again, it comes down to what you’ve got to keep out of your net.”
“It was better tonight,” Point said. “I thought we didn’t spend a whole lot of time in our D-zone. I thought there were stretches where we controlled the game. Passes were on the tape. I think the guys looked more confident tonight making plays and that’s what we need. It’s a good step in the right direction, though obviously, you want to win games. But I think overall we were better than we have been the past couple games.”
With the loss and a Hurricanes win, the Lightning slide to third in the Central Division Standings. Carolina leads the way with 62 points, followed by Florida with 61 and Tampa Bay with 60.
“I’m checking the standings all the time,” Cernak said. “It’s always changing. I know this year it’s really tight– especially in our division– so those two upcoming games against Carolina are going to be really big ones for us and we just have to be ready for them.”
That first game coming up against Carolina is Monday night, followed by another right after on Tuesday — both at Amalie Arena.