ORLANDO — The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning were in late season form Tuesday night at Amway Center as fights broke out all over the ice following Sam Bennett’s charging of Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Florida center Noel Acciari was hurt in one of the scrums.
Prior to Bennett running into the Tampa goalie less than five minutes into the second period of Florida’s eventual 3-2 win over the Lightning at Amway Center, there had only been two penalties called: One on each side, a holding and a hooking call.
By the time the game ended, the two teams had combined for 23 penalties — 10 for fighting — with each team being assessed a game misconduct (Ryan Lomberg and Alex Killorn).
It was good-time fun and the fans who came to the Magic’s home arena seemed to love it.
One person who did not was Acciari.
In the third period, Acciari appeared to jump into a fray to pull someone off a teammate. In doing so, he appeared to pull a pectoral muscle or possibly injure his shoulder.
Regardless, Acciari had to be escorted off the ice by athletic trainer Tommy Alva so he could stabilize his left arm.
It certainly did not look good and it appears Acciari will at the very least miss the start of the 2021-22 season.
“It didn’t seem good,” coach Joel Quenneville said afterward. “We will know more (Wednesday), probably know how long (he’ll be out) in the next couple of days. He’ll be out a couple, which could be more.”
When asked if he meant a “couple” days, weeks or months, Quenneville said “we’ll just say right now he’s out a little bit.’’
Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper, who drew ire on the southern side of the state for his comments about the Panthers regarding cheap shots, basically said Bennett started the whole thing and the Lightning finished it.
“The guy did something dumb,’’ said Cooper, who called Bennett’s hit on Blake Coleman in Game 1 “predatory.” Bennett was suspended for Game 2.
“There’s retribution for stuff like that. You want to go down that road, we’re sure the hell not going to back down.”
The first charged fight of the game came in the aftermath of Bennett’s charging and it was Owen Tippett throwing down. He also scored twice — giving the Panthers the lead at 2-1 and then the insurance they needed at 3-1 midway through the third.
“It just takes one play like that to change momentum and tempers start flying,’’ Tippett said. “Obviously, it’s just temper from the playoffs.”
Bennett did end up serving two minutes for charging Vasilevskiy and then fought twice in the third period.
Tampa Bay also took a goalie interference penalty late in the game when Corey Perry collided with Spencer Knight.
That penalty came with 37 seconds left and the Lightning down a goal. Not a good time to take a penalty — especially since the two sides were already playing 4-on-4 due to other infractions.
Vasilevskiy had to return to the net for the faceoff in the Tampa Bay zone, Florida collected it and Aaron Ekblad basically skated around as he kept possession and killed the clock.
That won a game which was meaningless in the standings but could have implications down the road.
First off, the two teams finish the preseason against each other this week. The Panthers are in Tampa on Thursday and the Lightning come to Sunrise on Saturday. We could see more of this. Probably will see more of this.
As for Acciari, it obviously hurts for him to miss time since he had a strong preseason and he was slated to start the season with Mason Marchment (the former Orlando Solar Bear had himself a nice game) and Patric Hornqvist on the fourth line.
Florida was going to have to make a roster decision on a forward but know it looks like Eetu Luostarinen will make the team along with Lomberg and perhaps Juho Lammikko.
We shall see.
Rookie Anton Lundell hasn’t suited up for a game yet but he should get the call Thursday night. He may get the chance to center that fourth line as well with either Luostarinen or Joe Thornton centering the third.
GEORGE’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Owen Tippett, Florida
2. Spencer Knight, Florida
3. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Tampa Bay
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