NHL Game Night: 12-23-13 Lightning at Panthers

Now THAT was a holiday treat!

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He got the 3 goal lead, made a flurry of key stops toward the end of the Second Period, and the team got to throw it in cruise control the rest of the way. That's how you show the killer instinct to dispose of an inferior team.

First Period
18:56 FLA Bergenheim (5), (Barkov)(PP)
19:15 TB Killorn (9), (Filppula, Hedman)

Second Period
3:22 TB Johnson (9), (Hedman, St Louis)
8:01 TB Filppula (13), (Purcell, St Louis)(PP)
12:07 TB St Louis (16), (Palat)

Third Period
3:40 TB Brown (3), (Kucherov, Cote)
13:36 TB Brown (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)

Martin St. Louis, Valtteri Filppula, and Ben Bishop were the game's three stars.

This was billed as a clash of two of the hottest teams of the Eastern Conference. The Panthers saw this as an opportunity to make a statement in the last game before the holiday break in front of their home fans (all 3 of them). They made a statement all right. After a fairly even First Period the Lightning started to take territorial control in the Second Period, got a greasy goal to take the lead and the Panthers reacted to the slightest bit of adversity by absolutely dissolving. Undisciplined, stupid play helped the Lightning get a 3 goal lead at the end of the period, and they rewarded the 2 fans they had that stuck around for the final frame by absolutely laying down in the Third Period. They quit. No effort. Nil. Nada. Lightning fans, if you ever get to feeling down on your team, take a look downstate at that dumpster fire in Sunrise. Be glad you don't have to root for that bunch of lazy, unprofessional quitters.

The Lightning check into the holiday break having already secured the minimum 12 points they want from this 4th 10-game segment of the season. They'll get 3 games after the break to close out the segment and to try to rack up insurance points that may come in handy in January and into February. It's a fantastic spot to be in and a tribute to the guys that their record without one of the game's best players (Stamkos) is nearly identical as what their record was with Stamkos to start the year.

The victory also gives the Lightning the inaugural Governor's Cup, which can be now used to collect Bill Lindsay's tears, that I might drink of their sweet, sweet goodness.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:33. With Brewer out and Salo going down in the First Period, Gudas got the big minutes tonight.

Mark Barberio was +3 in 13:46. Two of those plusses came in garbage time in the Third Period after the Panthers chose to lay down. Again, with regard to Barberio's plus/minus, he's living a charmed life this season.

Tyler Johnson had the GWG and was +2 with 3 shots. He was also 54% on draws. He missed a second goal on a 1-time by just a dash, as well.

Alex Killorn was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 16:05. Killorn's goal 19 seconds after Bergenheim's gift from Carle completely negated the Panthers' momentum and set the stage for the Lightning to beat up their inner children all Second Period long.

Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:48. His nice feed to St. Louis on the 1-timer was almost for naught as Marty flubbed the shot, but he got just enough to put it in and get Ondrej on the scoresheet.

J.P. Cote had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 16:16. That, what, 2 assists in 3 games? They gave him #22 and he's putting up numbers like Dan Boyle. He's played mistake-free the past couple of games and he's consistently given the Lightning another big open ice hitter to go along with Gudas. As such, you've seen his ice time continue to go up with over 16 minutes tonight.

J.T. Brown had 2 goals and was +2 with 6 shots in 16:41. The Third Period, garbage time, was the Kucherov and Brownov show, with Brownov being the recipient of some great playmaking from Kucherov.

Nikita Kucherov had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots in 16:04. He set up Brown's first goal with a great rush and move around the net and the second goal with an easy tap-in off a feed on a 2-on-1. In fact, it looked like he was going to be credited with Brown's first goal, but the scorekeepers realized only Kucherov shots from the high slot should count as regulation goals.

Andrej Sustr was +1 in 16:20. I'll be honest, although he hasn't made any egregious mistakes, it feels like he may be starting to hit a bit of a rookie wall. He's a slightly built guy and he's playing against guys with a lot more foot speed and upper body strength than him, and he's having a slightly rougher time keeping up 1-on-1. This break might be coming at a good time for him to rest and relax before heading out west.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.