Lightning had all the hustle, but couldn't bury the Panthers.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the loss. His puckhandling gaffe early in the game turned out to be the margin of difference.
Congratulations to Junior Lessard on his first goal as a member of the Lightning, and to Mathieu Darche who had an outstanding game. Shame on the homers in Sunrise for denying Darche a star of the game.
Matt Smaby was even in 8:38 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot. He made a good block in the first period but got caught out on a couple of 1 minute plus shifts which might be part of why he sat in the second period (although there were a lot of special teams in the middle frame). In the third period he was pretty solid and even did some business from the point on one shift helping to keep a couple of pucks in the zone. I really like the pairing of Smaby and Mike Lundin that has been put together by the coaching staff because I feel like each player's strength helps cover up the other's weakness. It would have been interesting if Boyle hadn't dropped the skate on his wrist this year to see these two Minnesota boys develop together as a unit in Norfolk. If they can stick together and learn to read off of each other, they could be a really good second or third pairing for the Lightning down the road. I'm already seeing flashes of Lundin reading what Smaby is doing and making the right adjustments to cover for what Matt is doing.
The Panthers were flat lucky to survive this game. The Lightning outworked and out played them for the final 55 minutes of the game and didn't let up even when they fell behind by two goals. This is a team filled with character guys playing their rear ends off for jobs next season. If the Lightning can throw in another skill player or two up front, this can get interesting. Also, if they can get a post and a chain to keep Smith and Ramo closer to their net, that might not be a bad investment either.