TAMPA — The Florida Panthers will not end the preseason unbeaten after all. On Thursday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored three goals in the second period and handed Florida’s its first loss of the exhibition season 6-2 at Amalie Arena.
The Panthers (5-1-0) were vying for their first undefeated preseason since … do you know?
They don’t really keep records of these things. So they may have gone unbeaten in the preseason at some point — or not.
Doesn’t really matter.
Regardless, the Panthers will dress a lineup which will more resemble their season-opening team in Saturday’s preseason finale against the Lightning in Sunrise.
A good number of players who will make Florida’s opening 23 were on the ice Thursday, however, and a couple of them factored into the scoring.
The Panthers trailed 1-0 early in the second period before Joe Thornton — making his Panthers’ preseason debut — charged in and pounced on a big rebound left by Brian Elliott and popped it into the back of the net.
The shot came from Owen Tippett whose impressive training camp/preseason continues.
Tippett, who had two goals on Tuesday night, got another one in the third period Thursday.
After Thornton tied the score at 1, Tampa Bay came back seconds later with Corey Perry beating Spencer Knight on an odd-angled shot along the goal line.
The Lightning made it 3-1 when Perry got his second of the night, breaking out on a stretch pass from Mikhail Sergachev and beating Knight backhand with 2:24 left in the second.
Tampa Bay took the initial lead, scoring on a breakaway from Anthony Cirellli on the team’s ninth shot of the night 3:25 into the second period.
Knight played two periods, as scheduled, making 17 saves before giving way to Christopher Gibson with the Lightning holding a 5-on-3 power play for 1:04 to kick off the third.
Gibson basically came in out of the bullpen with bases loaded and no outs — and Steven Stamkos got to bat twice.
Stamkos blasted a pair of shots from his office in the left circle, beating his (briefly) former teammate Gibson twice within a span of 26 seconds. Stamkos’ first goal came 20 seconds into the third and his second came at 46.
Florida, down 5-1, went after Pat Maroon following his charge of Knight in the second.
Ryan Lomberg went after Maroon — who has become Panther Enemy No. 1 rather quickly — drawing a round of applause from the scratched players atop the arena in the press box.
The fights did not break out all over the ice as they did in Orlando but at least there was something.
And, Maroon got the final goal of the night, scoring with 1:12 left.
As was the case Tuesday, not a whole lot happened in the first period.
At least on Tuesday the Panthers got a goal from Frank Vatrano. Thursday, he was sitting high atop the arena in the press box.
Tampa Bay and Florida went to the room scoreless after the opening 20 with a combined 11 shots on goal. The Lightning had seven of those.
Oh yeah: Anthony Duclair got hit with a tripping penalty.
That was about all for excitement in the first.
It has not been decided whether Acciari will have surgery.
Regardless, he is expected to be out months.
GEORGE’S THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1. Corey Perry, Tampa Bay
2. Joe Thornton, Florida
3. Steven Stamkos, Tampa Bay
PRESEASON PANTHERS ON DECK
Tampa Bay Lighting (2-4-0) at Florida Panthers (5-1-0)
- When: Saturday, 6 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- 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
— END PRESEASON —