The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning got their final tuneup of the preseason Saturday night before everything starts for real this coming week.
The Panthers ended up winning five of seven exhibition games this preseason but go into the regular season riding a two-game losing streak after getting beat 4-2 by the Lightning at FLA Live Arena.
Tampa Bay won the final two preseason games between the two; the Buccaneers go for the South Florida trifecta Sunday when they play host to the Dolphins.
”For the most part, it was a pretty good game,” said Joel Quenneville, whose team outshot the Lightning 47-29.
“It had good pace to it, we liked the chances. I thought we moved the puck well.”
The Lightning will raise its third Stanley Cup banner when it opens the 2021-22 campaign on Tuesday night against Pittsburgh (ESPN).
The Penguins then fly south to take on the Panthers in their opener Thursday night at 7 (Ballys).
On Saturday, the two teams iced what will — for the most part — be their opening night lineups.
The Panthers rolled out Sergei Bobrovsky for his first game since he and wife Olga welcomed a new daughter earlier this week and Bobrovsky looked sharp early as he has throughout camp.
After a scoreless, yet entertaining, first period the two teams combined for three quick goals in the second.
The Panthers opened the scoring at 4:51 on a slapshot from defenseman Kevin Connauton for his second goal of the preseason.
Connauton appeared to be on Florida’s opening night roster but he did not play in the third period and Quenneville said he had a lower-body injury and could miss a week or two.
That could open up a spot for either Chase Priskie or Matt Kiersted as both rookies were sent to AHL Charlotte on Friday.
Tampa Bay tied it on a Alex Killorn goal but 27 seconds later, Carter Verhaeghe and Sam Reinhart teamed up to make it 2-1.
Tempers started to flare again in the second period with Verhaeghe hitting former teammate Ryan McDonagh; then Jonathan Huberdeau and Anthony Cirelli collided at center ice.
In the third, Owen Tippett took umbrage with McDonagh hitting Aaron Ekblad and let him know about it. Ryan Lomberg, who has seemed to enjoy playing the Lightning all these times the past few months, jumped in as well and joined Tippett in the penalty box.
Tampa Bay had already tied the score by this point as the Lightning came out flying in the third, making it 2-2 when Brayden Point hopped on a rebound a minute in.
The Lightning made it 3-2 on the Tippett/Lomberg power play when Pat Maroon scored with Bobrovsky on the ice after being rolled by Corey Perry. Florida challenged for goalie interference but because MacKenzie Weegar initiated the contact with Perry, it was overruled.
Maroon then got his second power play goal (with Patric Hornqvist serving the delay of game) just moments later.
The Panthers played without center Sam Bennett as he went into the league’s Covid-19 protocol. Bennett was in the lineup Tuesday against the Lightning but watched Thursday’s game from the press box with many of Florida’s regulars.
Bennett could return to the Panthers in time for the opener on Thursday if he tests negative twice before then.
Quenneville said at the start of camp that the team was fully vaccinated.
— The Panthers got their second too-many-men penalty during a penalty kill in as many games on Saturday night.
On Thursday, the Lightning cashed in with two goals; Saturday night, Florida shut the Lightning power play down.
FLORIDA PANTHERS ON DECK
PITTSBURGH PENGUINS (0-0-0) AT FLORIDA PANTHERS (0-0-0)
- When: Thursday, 7 p.m.
- Where: FLA Live Arena, Sunrise
- Tickets: CLICK HERE
- TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida
- Radio: 560-AM
- 2021 regular season series: Did not play