After narrowly escaping with their first victory of the season last Thursday against the New York Rangers, the Flyers went into Sunrise, Florida and absolutely dominated a Panthers team that was clearly overmatched. Both teams have injuries up and down their lineups, but the team from Philadelphia showed their offensive depth by scoring seven goals against the Panthers, including Matt Read's first career hat trick.
For two consecutive contests, the Flyers showed the type of character most fans in Philadelphia believed they were capable of; they were thought of to be a playoff team coming into the season and finally showed that potential. Then Sunday night happened. The Flyers rolled into Tampa Bay on an emotional high and confidence in the sky; I don't know which was more pathetic, the team's effort against the Lightning or John Cena winning the Royal Rumble?!
Sean Couturier scored just 59 seconds into the first period, but for the next 59:01, it was all Steven Stamkos and company. The Lightning showed why they lead the NHL in scoring, while the Flyers looked like Steve Buscemi in drag; ugly and tired. With games on back-to-back days for the second consecutive weekend and in the midst of a four-game road trip, it looked like the Flyers just wanted to go home and go to sleep, so they took a team nap at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
After B.J. Crombeen was sent to the penalty box serving three separate minor penalties (something Dan Carcillo would be proud of), the Lightning killed off the resulting four-minute power-play (Wayne Simmonds also received a minor for roughing). The Flyers then got careless and took three penalties, two of which the Lightning capitalized on, putting the Flyers at a two-goal deficit after the opening stanza. Even though the Flyers outshot the Lightning 19-13 over the finals two periods, not many of those were quality scoring chances outside of Danny Briere's chances late in the second and third period. It was too little too late as the orange and black were outmuscled, outworked and frankly, outclassed by, what seems to be, a superior team.
The Panthers may have been a playoff team last season, while the Lightning finished tenth in the Eastern Conference, but the Panthers would have been an infinitely better matchup to start a goaltender that did not play professionally at all during the lockout. Ilya Bryzgalov finally earned his first victory of the season against the Rangers and it's understood if Laviolette wanted to keep rolling him, but advanced scouting and common sense says that the Panthers would have been the better team to deploy Leighton against, regardless of Bryzgalov's 4-1-0-1 record and 1.47 GAA in six career starts against them.
At least Matt Carle didn't register a point.