SUNRISE — The Florida Panthers got their second power play of Thursday’s game against the visiting Tampa Bay Lightning with just over three minutes remaining in a tied game.
Defenseman Brandon Montour, Florida’s new quarterback on the top power play unit, was apparently in the mood to hear some Billy Joel.
Montour rifled a shot past Andrei Vasilevskiy with 1:15 left on the clock to lead Florida to a 3-2 preseason win at FLA Live Arena.
For the second time this preseason, Montour was able to play his personalized goal song which happens to be ‘It’s Still Rock ‘n Roll to Me.’
The Panthers are 2-3 this preseason and wrap up the exhibition season Saturday afternoon in Tampa against the Lightning (0-4).
“It’s nice to [get one there], especially on the power play,” Montour said.
”Over the last couple of practices, we have been trying to work on it, getting ready for the season. It’s nice — especially against those guys — to get a quick win there.”
This was the first time the Panthers faced off against Tampa Bay since they were swept in the second round last season.
The rivalry between these two squads has ignited at a rapid pace and it was not put on hold just because it was a preseason game.
Zac Dalpe got into a fight with Cal Foote after tripping up Steven Stamkos late in the second period. The scrum got heated and Dalpe ended up missing the rest of the game after going down hard.
Stamkos also appeared to be shaken up on the play but remained in the game without missing a shift.
Dalpe got the scoring started 3:34 into the game. An Aaron Ekblad shot jumped off of Vasilevskiy’s pad and right onto Dalpe’s stick. He tucked it into the open net.
Aleksi Heponiemi extended Florida’s lead to 2-0 after pouncing on a Sam Reinhart rebound and potting it in with 1:57 to go in the opening frame.
“He’s just been really good at camp and is a prime example of a guy that did what he needed to do at camp,’’ coach Paul Maurice said. “He defined himself and described himself by his play. …
”We used him all over the ice. He’s had an excellent camp. He’s a very, very smart player and he’s got a skill level that means he can play with good players. ”
Nick Paul got Tampa Bay back into the game with a goal on a partial breakaway set up by a nice pass from Ross Colton 6:20 into the second period.
Vladislav Namestnikov scored off of a feed from Nikita Kucherov 4:16 into the third period to tie the game at 2-all.
Here are my takeaways from the game:
- Aleksi Heponiemi generated a handful of scoring chances with his tenacity on the puck. What he lacks in size he has in jump and it allows him to get on those loose pucks in front and score. He is already expected to make the team due to his waivers status but his play is backing up that expectation.
- The top power play unit was a bit sloppy to start but generated a few chances as time went on. Heponiemi was filling in where Matthew Tkachuk usually is and he was pushing the front of the net and generating chances.
- While dress rehearsal games are important in the preseason, there is a lot of risk sending your top guns out there in a meaningless game. Tampa Bay saw its season flash before its eyes when Stamkos went down awkwardly after getting tripped by Dalpe. Both teams avoided major injuries to key pieces — Dalpe being the only one with an injury that kept him out — but there is a line to tow in the preseason.
- The Panthers should be getting a look at multiple pieces who have been out with injury in their final preseason game on Saturday. Head coach Paul Maurice said Colin White and Carter Verhaeghe are likely to be good to go. Tkachuk, Patric Hornqvist, Nick Cousins and Ryan Lomberg are possibilities as well.
- Sergei Bobrovsky played a solid game, stopping 26 of 28 shots (.928). He made a couple of big saves, including a sprawling, spread-eagle stop on a Stamkos breakaway to keep Florida in the lead.
- The defense in front of Bobrovsky also looked sharp, not giving up too many chances off of breakdowns outside of Paul’s goal. It was a quiet night in the Panthers’ defensive zone and it was enough to get the job done.
FLORIDA PANTHERS PRESEASON
Florida Panthers at Tampa Bay Lightning
Where, When: Amalie Arena, Tampa; Saturday, 4 p.m.
Tickets: CLICK HERE
2022 Preseason — Sept. 26: Florida 4, Nashville 3 (OT); Nashville 4, Florida 0. Sept. 29: Carolina 5, Florida 2. Oct. 1: Carolina 4, Florida 3. Thursday: Florida 3, Tampa Bay 2. Saturday: at Tampa Bay, 4 p.m
Regular Season Opener: Oct. 13 at New York Islanders