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Florida Panthers GameDay

Can’t Stop Chucky: Florida Panthers 7, Tampa Bay Lightning 1

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SUNRISE — When Matthew Tkachuk got traded to the Florida Panthers this summer, he had his eyes set on taking down the Tampa Bay Lightning.

In his third go-around of the Battle of Florida, he did just that.

The MVP of the All-Star Game hosted in Sunrise two days prior factored into the Panthers’ first three goals and led them to a 7-1 victory over the Lightning.

”I had a really god understanding as Matthew as a player, I saw him play an awful lot of goals against us,” Panthers coach Paul Maurice said.

”But you got to see it every day before you really get a true understanding of what he can do with puck in mid air. He is an elite talent.”

With Panthers captain Sasha Barkov leaving the game after blocking a shot with his hand at 8:04 of the 2nd period, it was Tkachuk’s time to lead Florida to a win.

Barkov did not return but is not expected to be out long term and could return to the lineup for Thursday’s game against the San Jose Sharks, per Maurice.

Tkachuk got primary assists on Florida’s first two goals before batting in a highlight reel goal to give them an early cushion.

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He fed Carter Verhaeghe with another dime early in the third period for his fourth point of the night.

Verhaeghe notched his team-leading 28th goal and is eight points away from breaking his career high of 55 he set last year.

“I have played with him a lot of the year so I think we are continuing to find it,” Tkachuk said of his chemistry with the 27-year-old forward.

“It kind of starts from the defensive zone finding each other and seeing where he has so much speed, it’s all about hitting him in the right spots and he has such a good shot that it’s easy to play with him.”

With that assist, he became the fifth player in the NHL to hit 70 points on the season.

He passed Jonathan Huberdeau — who he was traded for in the offseason — for most points through 50 games (71) with a third-period power play goal for his fifth point of the night.

The Panthers played one of their most complete games of the season to finish off the Lightning despite being shorthanded for the entire second half of the game.

Sergei Bobrovsky came up huge in his return from a lower-body injury, stopping 32 shots.

THE GOALS OF THE GAME

  • Panthers 1, Lightning 0 (8:04, 1st): Matthew Tkachuk set up Carter Verhaeghe for a one-timer to put Florida ahead early.
  • Panthers 2, Lightning 0 (1:42, 2nd): Sam Bennett tapped in a Tkachuk feed from the slot.
  • Panthers 2, Lightning 1 (3:02, 2nd): Nikita Kucherov blasted a slap shot from the point past Sergei Bobrovsky.
  • Panthers 3, Lightning 1 (8:40, 2nd): Tkachuk batted in the rebound of a Verhaeghe shot seconds after a power play ended.
  • Panthers 4, Lightning 1 (17:56, 2nd): Eetu Luostarinen deflected a Brandon Montour slap shot past Vasilevskiy.
  • Panthers 5, Lightning 1 (2:53, 3rd): Eric Staal beat out an icing call and tucked the puck into a yawning cage with Vasilevskiy way out of position.
  • Panthers 6, Lightning 1 (5:26, 3rd): Verhaeghe blasted a Tkachuk feed past Vasilevskiy for his second goal of the night.
  • Panthers 7, Lightning 1 (14:23, 3rd): Tkachuk deflects an Aaron Ekblad shot past Vasilevskiy on the power play.

COLBY’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME

1. Matthew Tkachuk, Florida (two goals, three assists)

2. Carter Verhaeghe, Florida (two goals, two assists)

3. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida (32 saves, win)

PANTHERS ON DECK

SAN JOSE SHARKS AT FLORIDA PANTHERS

  • When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WQAM 560-AM; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932
  • Last season: Florida won 2-0
  • This season — Florida leads 1-0: Panthers 4, Sharks 3 (Nov. 3)
  • All-time regular season series: Florida leads 20-13-1, 7 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Colorado, 6 p.m.

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