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Preseason Game 1: Vatrano hat trick helps Panthers over Nashville

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Frank Vatrano scored three goals in the Florida Panthers’ preseason opener on Sunday afternoon at FLA Live Arena. // Photo by Roger Topalian, 21st Century Photography (561) 488-0000

It’s not going to count in any record book, but at least Frank Vatrano got himself a couple new ballcaps.

Vatrano scored three goals Sunday afternoon as the Florida Panthers kicked off their seven-game preseason slate with a 5-4 overtime win over the Nashville Predators in Sunrise on Sunday afternoon.

Florida and the Preds were tied at 4 before Sam Bennett won it in OT just 46 seconds in.

The Panthers and Preds will play Game 2 of their exhibition doubleheader Sunday at 6.

Vatrano, who appears to be playing on what will be Florida’s fourth line in training camp, got two of his goals by fighting in front of the net — something the Panthers’ coaching staff has to love.

His second goal of the day came in a more typical Vatrano fashion as he fired off a shot from Patric Hornqvist from the slot.

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Aleksi Heponiemi had the other for Florida.

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The Panthers started goalie Sam Montembeault and played him for the opening 40 minutes with tryout candidate Evan Fitzpatrick going the rest of the way.

Montembeault ended his day giving up two goals with 17 saves.

After shutting the Preds down in the first period, Montembeault gave up two goals off 13 shots in the second.

The Panthers found themselves trailing 2-0 in the second period.

Just under five minutes in, Tanner Jeanot drove in on Montembeault and scored top shelf for Nashville’s first.

On Florida’s fifth power play chance of the day, Jonathan Huberdeau misfired on an empty net; Nashville quickly got the puck up the ice with Yakov Trenin scoring off a wrist shot from the left circle at 11:30.

The Panthers got back into it with 2:36 remaining as Vatrano chopped at a puck near the mouth of the cage finally putting it past goalie Devin Cooley.

Early in the third, Vatrano tied the score at 2 as Zac Dalpe freed up the puck in the corner and got it to Hornqvist.

Heponiemi gave Florida its first lead of the game before Nashville tied it on a power play goal at 13:21. Vatrano gave the Panthers the lead back only to see Jeannot get his second of the day and help force overtime.

 

 

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