Throughout the Tampa Bay Lightning’s training camp, much of the focus has been on which youngsters will make their way onto the roster. Prospects such as Mathieu Joseph, Alexander Volkov, and Erik Cernak have displayed why they’re so highly regarded by the organization. Tuesday’s contest against the Panthers proved to be no exception to that.
Joseph tallied a pair of goals and an assist, Volkov chipped in a goal, and the Lightning pulled away in the third period for a 6-2 win over the Florida Panthers at the Amway Center in Orlando. However, it wasn’t just the prospects bringing their A-games, as Victor Hedman, Yanni Gourde, and Tony Cirelli each finished with a goal and an assist, while Brayden Point and Alex Killorn each registered a pair of assists. Louis Domingue got the win in net over his counterpart, Panthers netminder Roberto Luongo. In addition to the goals, this was a gritty, physical affair between the two in-state rivals who were playing the second of three preseason games against each other this week.
The Panthers carried over their third period play from Tuesday’s meeting, but the Lightning held a lead after 20 minutes.
Despite falling behind in shots on goal by a 13-8 margin in the opening period, Tampa Bay made their shots count. Hedman and Point hooked up on a goal that would easily make the highlight reel in a regular season game. Possessing the puck in the right faceoff circle, Point found Hedman streaking in from the blue line. As Hedman jumped up into scoring position, he took Point’s pass and blasted a shot past Luongo for a 1-0 Bolts lead at 4:50.
The lead didn’t last, as Florida’s Juho Lammikko, who is making a strong push for the Panthers’ opening night roster, knocked home a rebound at 6:27 after the initial shot was denied by Domingue. After that goal, Florida continued to make a push, but Domingue came up with a few solid stops, including one on Denis Malgin and one on Jonathan Huberdeau off different rushes. A scrum in front of the Panthers’ bench in the dying seconds of the period led to 4-on-4 hockey, where the Lightning took advantage on the following shift. After the Bolts won a faceoff, Hedman wristed a shot on net, where Cirelli deflected it home for the goal, putting Tampa Bay up 2-1 with 6.5 seconds left on the clock.
It didn’t take long for the Lightning to build upon that lead in the second period.
Tampa Bay came out with much more juice during the middle stanza, as Cirelli and Killorn found themselves on a 2-on-1, only to see Killorn’s shot denied by Luongo. However, they’d make up for it a short time later. Gourde notched his first goal of the preseason at the 3:40 mark off a setup by Point. After taking Point’s pass in the right circle, Gourde ripped a shot that squeezed through Luongo before landing in the crease and sliding into the net before the Panthers could clear it out, putting the Bolts up 3-1. Through two periods of play, the shots were 23-19 in favor of the Panthers, but the Lightning had an 11-10 edge in that department in the second period.
If the Lightning get somewhere between 27-30 starts for Domingue, that will be a huge plus for them.
After giving up a goal off a big rebound he’d probably like to have back, Domingue settled down and came up with several nice stops. Most notably, he flashed the glove when Malgin flew down the ice on an odd-man rush and uncorked a one-timer on a Grade-A chance. A season ago, Andrei Vasilevskiy publicly stated that he felt tired late in the season, as he was being leaned on heavily by the Bolts. If Domingue can hold up and deliver quality starts on occasion, it will bode well for this team going forward.
Even though it’s preseason, this game contained plenty of angry encounters.
Several scrums broke out, most notably in the second period. Michael Haley, who led the NHL in fighting majors last season, got into a shoving and shouting match with Cedric Paquette after a whistle, but wasn’t able to take Paquette to the box with him.
In addition, this game had a few hits as well, highlighted by Dan Girardi’s big hit on Dryden Hunt near the far-side boards. With these teams playing four straight games against each other (including the regular season opener), there has been plenty of time for these in-state rivals to renew hostilities. Just imagine if they finally meet in a playoff series.
Much like Tuesday night’s game, the Panthers wouldn’t go away in the third period.
With Mikhail Sergachev in the penalty box for hooking, Florida cut Tampa Bay’s lead to 3-2 at the 2:09 mark when Frank Vatrano knocked home a loose puck in the slot for his first goal of the preseason. The Panthers showed some jump after that goal, much like they did in Tuesday’s meeting when they rallied from a 2-0 third period deficit to beat the Bolts 3-2.
Sergachev then took a cross-checking penalty, leading to another power play chance for the Cats. Despite a couple of quality chances, including a dangerous shot from the right circle by Mike Hoffman, Florida came up short.
Following that much-needed effort from the Bolts’ penalty killers, their power play came through.
Troy Brouwer found himself sitting in the box for interference halfway through the third period, where the Lightning would take advantage. Sergachev atoned for his earlier penalties by putting a shot on net from the point. Despite making the initial save, Luongo couldn’t handle the rebound. Joseph pounced on it, turned around, and wristed a shot home for a power play goal and a 4-2 lead with 9:44 left. Exactly one minute later, Alexander Volkov got in on the goal-scoring party. Aaron Ekblad tried to clear the puck, but Volkov blocked the puck, deflecting it into the net for a 5-2 Lightning advantage. Joseph made it 6-2 when he cut to the net and pushed the puck towards Luongo, who wasn’t able to steer it away. Joseph followed it up and fired the rebound home to put the exclamation point on this win.
Both of these teams will meet up in the preseason one more time when they face off at the BB&T Center in Sunrise on Saturday night. Puck drops at 7 pm.
-Nikita Kucherov was held out of this game as a precaution after suffering a lower body injury in Tuesday’s contest.
-Tyler Johnson also missed this game with an injury as well. He remains day-to-day.
Our Three Stars of the Game
1st Star: Mathieu Joseph – Finished with two goals and one assist.
2nd Star: Brayden Point – Ended the night with two assists.
3rd Star: Victor Hedman – Tallied a goal and an assist.
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