Cooper Shows Confidence in Point in Lightning’s Win Over Panthers

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 3-0 to start the season for the second time in as many years after a dramatic come from behind 4-3 win over the Florida Panthers in a shootout on Tuesday — a night when the franchise welcomed home former captain Vincent Lecavalier.

The win displayed the Lightning’s ability to remain unrattled as a team despite falling behind late in a game. It also showed the level of confidence Lightning head coach Jon Cooper has in 20-year-old rookie Brayden Point.

Stamkos Scores Tying Goal With Six Seconds Left

After the Lightning fell behind 1-0 in the first period and then 3-2 late in the third, Steven Stamkos scored on a one-timer from just above the goal line to tie the game with six seconds remaining in regulation. It was from the sharpest of angles and the sort of goal that head coach Jon Cooper believes separates Stamkos most of the league’s other snipers.

“There’s not many guys in the league that can do that. And when I say not many, you’re talking one hand and even then I don’t even know if you’re getting to the thumb,” Cooper said after the game.

The Lightning were unable to capitalize on a power play in overtime and the game went into a shootout.

After Jonathan Drouin scored to give the Lightning a 1-0 lead with one shooter remaining, the Panthers’ Vincent Trocheck skated in on Ben Bishop and lost control of the puck. Bishop skated out of the crease believing the shootout was over and Trocheck reached for the puck and shot it into the net. The play was reviewed and it was determined that the puck maintained a forward motion before Trocheck shot it, meaning it was a good goal and the shootout would continue.

In the sixth round of the shootout, Cooper called upon Point as the team’s shooter. Point skated in and shot the puck glove side on James Reimer for a goal before skating calmly back to the Lightning bench. After Bishop turned away a shot by the Panthers’ Aaron Ekblad, the Lightning secured a 4-3 win.

Cooper’s Confidence in Point

Cooper’s decision to go with Point in the shootout is the sort of choice that reflects the amount of confidence he has in the young player just three games into his NHL career. After the goal horn went off in Amalie Arena to signal a Lightning win and the team began to celebrate what they believed was their third victory of the season, the video review of Trocheck’s shootout attempt brought the game right back into contention. Going with Point in that sort of situation sends a strong message about what Cooper sees in him.

Jon Cooper
Cooper looked to Point in a crucial moment. (Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

It was Point’s first shootout attempt in his professional hockey career, but that didn’t give Cooper pause.

“He’s done it his whole career, he just hasn’t done it in the NHL,” Cooper said after the game. “But I’ve watched him do it in practice, so that was good enough for me.”

Point didn’t know he was going to get the call but was happy to get the chance help the Lightning get the win, despite having some nerves before he got onto the ice.

“I didn’t know I was going (in the shootout), but coach tapped me and said ‘go get ’em’ and I just tried to make a move and we got the winner,” Point said.

Although Point scored the shootout winner, he does not receive credit for it as his first official NHL goal because shootout goals do not count towards a player’s goal total under the league’s rules. For Point though, getting a win is what matters.

“It’s pretty cool…just to contribute and to help the team get the win,” Point said when asked about what it meant to score that goal. He also gave credit to his teammates for scoring big goals and to Bishop for making a lot of saves in the victory.

Stamkos spoke about how well Point has played and what it meant for Point to come up big in such an important moment.

“That’s a big moment for him and he came through. I thought he’s played great and probably deserved some goals so far, but I think that line is playing well for us right now. Obviously, it’s a big position for him to get an opportunity to take advantage of and we are glad to see that,” Stamkos said.

Point registered four shots on goal in just under 15 minutes of ice time on Tuesday, but his most important contribution came during the shootout.