Flames look to turn the tide in Florida vs. Lightning

NHL Hockey

Calgary coach Darryl Sutter hopes his Flames’ rude welcome to Florida will be an eye-opener.

The Western Conference club will have a chance to redeem its humbling 6-2 defeat Tuesday against the Florida Panthers by facing the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night in their lone visit to the Gulf Coast.

Calgary arrived in Florida looking good, having won two games by a composite score of 11-5. Currently occupying a top-three spot in the Pacific Division, the Flames were sporting the NHL’s second-best goals against average (2.23 per game).

The Panthers’ offense adjusted that number, which rose to 2.35 although the Flames currently still rank second best.

Even without top-six forwards Sam Reinhart (COVID-19) and ex-Flame Sam Bennett (suspension), Florida ran roughshod over Sutter’s bunch in the final 50 minutes by netting five unanswered goals and bruising up the visitors in a dominating win that had an emotional, playoff feel to it.

Playoffs were the furthest thing from the Calgary coach’s mind following the four-goal defeat.

“There’s not a postseason if you play like you did tonight,” Sutter said. “(Florida’s) a different level of team. We’re not there yet. We had some guys that couldn’t take the size and couldn’t take the speed of the other team.”

Johnny Gaudreau scored on a breakaway and Blake Coleman tallied on an odd-angle shot for the Flames, but their problem was helping ex-Panthers goalie Jacob Markstrom against Florida, which has scored an NHL second-best 128 goals and is 18-3-0 on home ice.

“That’s a measuring-stick type of game and obviously we didn’t measure up very well today,” left wing Matthew Tkachuk said. “But I think there’s no greater challenge for us than to play the defending champs for two years in a row next game.

“There’s no excuse not to get up for that game.”

Getting three-point games from Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point in Columbus, the Lightning snapped their three-game losing streak Tuesday with a dominating 7-2 rout of the Blue Jackets, ending their two-game road trip on a high note.

Palat scored the game’s first two goals as Tampa Bay cashed in on three of its four power plays, and the Lightning cruised to the win behind 20 saves from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy (18-5-3) against the Blue Jackets, who allowed seven goals in consecutive games for the first time in franchise history.

Palat’s second goal boosted the left wing to 400 career NHL points, and he added to it with an assist on Point’s goal for a 4-1 lead.

The 10-year veteran has totaled 137 goals and 264 assists in 586 games played.

“It’s humbling. I’m just so happy,” said Palat, 30. “I’m in the NHL. I’m with the same team for so long and we had great success here. I’m helping my team and I would never thought about getting this milestone.”

A seventh-round selection (208th overall) by the Lightning in 2011, Palat joined Joe Pavelski and Patric Hornqvist as the only active players drafted that late or later to reach 400 career points.

Point’s three points pushed him to eight (four goals, four assists) in his five games since returning from his upper-body injury.

In his 35th outing with the Lightning, Corey Perry netted his ninth goal, matching his total in 49 games for Montreal last season.

The Lightning announced Tuesday that forward Ross Colton had entered COVID-19 protocol.

–Field Level Media

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