Cats-Bolts: Panthers Must Learn How to Finish

Aaron BrenkerCorrespondent INovember 18, 2008

It was not the prettiest of victories, but the Florida Panthers will take any victory they can get.

The Panthers started out great, storming out to a 3-0 lead on two goals by Bryan McCabe and another goal by David Booth. The Panthers' offense was solid, but the defense was flawed at best, allowing 51 shots to poor Tomas Vokoun.

Vokoun handled the challenge exceptionally, stopping 48 of the 51 shots and proving he is still the all-star goalie he has been in the past. Excessive offensive attacks and constant pressure by the Tampa Bay Lightning kept him on his toes.

Too many shots finally led to the Lightning's first goal, as Radim Vrbata tallied his first goal of the season. Vokoun kept his team in the lead with consistent solid saves, but towards the beginning of the third period Evegeny Artyukhin inched the Bolts closer making the score 3-2.

It looked like the Panthers would be able to limp out of Tampa with two points, but in classic Panthers fashion Steve Eminger scored the tying goal with minutes left in the third period. The Panthers seemed demoralized and were outplayed the rest of the third period and overtime.

It was on to the shootout, where both teams have struggled in the past. Vokoun stopped Tampa's Vincent Lecavalier on the first shot. The Panthers' first shot was missed by Stephen Weiss.

It was then shootout star Jussi Jokinen's turn, but he missed the net slightly. Then on Nathan Horton's shot the Panthers finally tickled the twine.

Vokoun stopped Tampa's last shooter, giving the Panthers a 4-3 victory.

This was a big win for the Panthers, but they gave away a point to a division rival and could not hold a three-goal lead, which is inexcusable.

Here are my three stars of the game:

First Star: Tomas Vokoun with 48 saves

Second Star: Bryan McCabe with two goals, one assist

Third Star: Steve Eminger with one goal, two assists