ORLANDO — The Amway Center in downtown Orlando certainly wasn’t packed Tuesday night but there was a really good crowd on hand and they got quite a show as the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning put on a fight night during their first preseason game of the 2021-22 season.
Guess what? The two cross-state rivals — yeah, we can say that and mean it now — play two more times in the preseason before they meet four times in the regular season including later this month in Tampa.
If you are a hockey fan in the Sunshine State, or anywhere really, odds are you’re going to be tuning in whenever the Panthers and Lightning square off.
Finally, this thing is getting good in the neighborhood.
The Panthers won the exhibition 3-2 thanks in great part to a pair of goals from Owen Tippett and some really good goaltending from rookie Spencer Knight.
Honestly, Knight’s cool demeanor and steady hand was impressive Tuesday and that has kind of been lost in what went down in O-Town.
But enough about Knight.
On to the fights!
Both sides were playing nice Tuesday and, at least for the first period, it was a pretty hum-drum preseason game. Fans were enjoying the show, the Lightning and Solar Bear mascots were doing their thing in the stands and everyone seemed happy to be together watching some hockey.
Then came Sam Bennett.
Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy went back to play the puck up against the boards behind the net and Bennett came up and popped him, throwing a shoulder in for good measure.
Running a goalie at anytime is going to get a team’s attention. In a preseason game?
That will ignite something and it certainly did Tuesday night.
Bennett got called for charging and went to the box with Tippett, but in the third period, Bennett fought twice.
Here is one of them:
Fights broke out all over the ice as the night went on.
The Bennett fight went quickly, but as the two pugilists were headed to the penalty box, gloves dropped all over the ice.
In this fight, Florida center Noel Acciari appears to have gotten hurt before he was taken down to the ice by Pat Maroon and it looks like Acciari will be out for some time. Months, perhaps.
The Panthers and Lightning will get things going again Thursday night in Tampa with the traveling circus hitting Sunrise on Saturday night to close things out.
“This gets your attention,” Joel Quenneville said. “We have two more games. We’ll see how that plays out.”
PRESEASON PANTHERS ON DECK
PANTHERS (5-0-0) AT TAMPA BAY (1-4-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: Amalie Arena, Tampa
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- 2021 regular season series: Florida won 5-3
- 2021 Stanley Cup playoffs, Round 1: Tampa Bay won 4-2
- Streaming: FloridaPanthers.com