TAMPA — Brayden Point delivered his share of punches in the second period of the Lighting’s matchup with the Panthers on Saturday night, then sent the cross-state rival home with a loss, delivering the knockout blow in overtime.
Point’s breakaway goal 2:13 into the extra period gave the Lightning a 3-2 victory at Amalie Arena. The Lightning (7-3-3) have points in seven straight games, going 5-0-2 in that stretch.
Moments after Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (26 saves) robbed Florida defenseman Aaron Ekblad by shutting off an open net with a remarkable glove save, Lightning forward Ondrej Palat took the puck away from Panthers forward Carter Verhaeghe. Palat skated around the back of the net and sent a stretch pass through the neutral zone to Point, who was behind on a line change but had slipped behind the Panthers defense for a breakaway.
With open ice in front of him and only goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky to beat, Point faked a forehand shot as he closed in on the net and beat Bobrovsky by lifting a backhand shot over his right pad.
“You’re just trying to read the goalie, where he’s at and make a move and commit to it,” Point said. “I think anytime you get a break, (it’s) always a good thing. It doesn’t happen often.”
The win came after the Lightning blew a 2-0 lead in the second period, with the Panthers scoring twice in 36 seconds.
Point makes his money filling the net, not by throwing punches, but he dropped his gloves and fought Florida agitator Patric Hornqvist after the two tangled up against the far boards 8:46 into the second.
“It just happened,” Point said. “It’s hockey, and sometimes tempers flare. I don’t mind it. I just asked him to go … and we throw a couple, and that’s it. It’s just part of the game.”
The players exchanged several punches to the head before they were separated.
There were times over the past two Stanley Cup- winning seasons when anger brought out the best in the Lightning, and many times the Panthers were at the root of it.
Defenseman Victor Hedman said Point is an emotional player who plays better the angrier he is.
“You’ve seen (Point) play for a long time,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You watch him play in the playoffs when emotions are the highest and he elevates his game. Point wants to win, although it’s a little early in the season for this to be going on. There’s not much that kid can’t do.”
Seventeen seconds later, Hedman scored his second goal of the season, putting the Lightning up 2-0.
Follow all the action on and off the ice
Subscribe to our free Lightning Strikes newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
“Brayden probably fights once or twice a year,” Cooper said. “But I think it’s a respect thing, too, when the players see one of your top players doing that, it gets them into the game.”
Almost four minutes after Hedman’s goal, the Panthers got on the board. Forward Jonathan Huberdeau scored after emerging with the puck after Palat and forward Pierre-Edouard Bellemare collided in a crowd by the near wall. The tying goal came 36 seconds later when Ekblad’s shot from the point was deflected in by Florida forward Eetu Luostarinen with 6:29 left in the period.
The Lightning went up 1-0 in the opening period with a much-needed goal from their beleaguered power play, which entered the game 3-for-29 over their previous 12 games on the man advantage.
Pat Maroon scored on the Lightning’s first power play of the night, set up by a pass from forward Ross Colton from the near corner at the goal line.
“You look at the things we’ve been going through, especially power play-wise, and 5-0-2 is a strong statement,” Hedman said. “There are still a lot of things we can always improve on, but points in seven straight, won on five of them, I think that’s a good pace if you want to make the playoffs.”
Contact Eduardo A. Encina at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @EddieintheYard.
• • •
The Tampa Bay Times has commemorated the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Order now.
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.