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Panthers, Lightning ‘Battle of Florida’ Among NHL’s Best Rivalries



Panthers lightning
The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning mix it up during the second period on Saturday night in Sunrise. // Roger Lee Photographer (561) 866-2000

Every time the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning duke it out, the hockey world is sure to watch.

ESPN said that much when they ranked the Sunshine State’s rivalry the third-best in the NHL today.

Players on both sides are sure to circle the dates they meet up on the calendar — especially the past few years.

The Panthers and Lightning have always faced off quite often throughout their existence, but things took a turn when they played each other in the playoffs in consecutive years starting in 2021.

Well, the rest is history.

“I mean, listen, you play two really good teams for the past couple of years and play each other in the playoffs, there’s no love lost,” Steven Stamkos said after the Lightning’s combative 5-3 win on Saturday. “They’re two very talented teams. Teams that have guys that love to stir the pot, and it’s good for the game.”

Added Viktor Hedman: “We’ve played a lot. Regular season, preseason, and a couple of playoff runs, too. So it’s two good teams going at it and there’s guys that don’t step down and guys that step up for one another, so that’s going to happen in games.

“That’s all part of the way hockey is supposed to be played. With a lot of emotion. We leave it on the ice and go from there. We have two great teams in the state of Florida and it’s great for the game. I think we’ve also been two of the top teams in the past few years.”

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The growth the rivalry has provided in both markets has been apparent.

On Saturday, Amerant Bank Arena hosted a sellout crowd of 19,396 and the fans were extra loud and extra passionate that night.

Same can be said when the Panthers make the trek across Alligator Alley to take on the Bolts at Amalie Arena.

But with the Panthers making a heel turn to a more physical style of game under coach Paul Maurice, they have become arguably more annoying for the Lightning to play against.

“Maurice has gotten their team going,” Hedman said. “They’ve got one of the best records in the league, if not the best in the league, and they were at the final last year, so they are a very talented team.”

The Lightning are not the only team the Panthers annoy, either.

Florida’s rivalry with the Boston Bruins ranked ninth on ESPN’s list following an epic first-round series last year while the “Tkachuk Bowl” with the Ottawa Senators was called one of the NHL’s rivalries “ready to explode.”

Both the Toronto Maple Leafs and Carolina Hurricanes seem to have some animosity with the Panthers after they ended their seasons en route to a Stanley Cup Final, too.

But with the way the Panthers play, they don’t make too many friends on the ice.

Florida is now firmly on the map in the hockey world and there are several teams looking to take them down.

“I think that’s something we’re happy about,” Ryan Lomberg told FHN in February.

“People don’t like to play us because it’s our M.O. of playing hard and being tough to play against. I would say it’s more of a playoff mindset. We kind of always play that way. We don’t wait for the playoffs to get physical.

“We don’t really care if people want to punch us or not.”

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  • When: Thursday, 7:30 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise 
  • Streaming ONLY: ESPN+, Hulu
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5 FM-2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL app
  • Season Series (Florida Leads 1-0) — At Nashville: Panthers 4, Predators 1 (Jan. 22). At Florida: Thursday.
  • Last Season: Nashville won 2-0
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Florida leads 22-14-6, 3 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday, March 23 at New York Rangers, 8 p.m. (ABC)

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