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Florida Panthers

State of Hockey: Florida Panthers 3, Tampa Bay Lightning 2



Panthers lightning

The Florida Panthers had themselves a day Wednesday, meeting at the airport early in the morning for a flight to Tampa — and a game against the Lightning later that night.

Turned out to be a pretty good one.

As is usually the case between these two rivals, the game took a physical turn but Sergei Bobrovsky made 27 saves as the Panthers won this edition of the Sunshine State Showdown 3-2.

Florida continued to keep pace in the Atlantic Division race in what was a four-point game against the Lightning.

The Panthers, Lightning, Maple Leafs and Bruins are all battling for the division lead and a top-3 finish which includes a spot in the playoffs.

Sam Reinhart picked up goals Nos. 20 and 21 as Paul Maurice coached in his 1,800th NHL game.

Florida also got a goal from Aaron Ekblad — his first of the season and first point in seven games.

Not long after Ekblad made it 1-0 at 4:16 of the first, the Panthers took a penalty, allowing the NHL’s No. 2 power play to take the ice.

Although Tampa Bay took four shots on goal, Ekblad saved what could have been the tying goal by getting his stick on a shot near the cage, sending it up the ice.

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Reinhart made it 2-0 early in the second as he saved a loose puck from exiting the zone and sent a sharp pass to Sasha Barkov in the corner.

Barkov softly served up the puck to Evan Rodrigues, who then dropped it on Reinhart’s stick in the slot.

Tampa Bay did make it 2-1 on the opening shift of the third when Nikita Kucherov found the puck inadvertently kicked to him by Niko Mikkola in the slot.

Reinhart got his second on a shorthanded goal at 3:11 when he out-hustled Victor Hedman to a puck along the boards.

Only Tampa Bay got it right back when Ekblad’s stick blocked Michael Eyssimont’s initial shot — only it returned to him, and he scored on the follow.

Bobrovsky has now allowed eight goals in his past four games.

Florida was scheduled to fly back from Tampa following the game and plans to practice Thursday.

The East-leading New York Rangers visit Sunrise on Friday as part of the traditional New Year’s doubleheader with the Canadiens.

— Barkov, who ended with three assists, has recorded multiple points in Florida’s past two wins. He also drew a penalty with 1:16 remaining and the net empty. Barkov, in a word, was fantastic on Wednesday.

— Reinhart has four goals in his past four games.

— Rodrigues picked up his first point in eight games with the primary assist on Reinhart’s goal.


  • Panthers 1, Lightning 0 (4:16, 1st): Aaron Ekblad said not scoring a goal had been wearing on him, but the defenseman ended his drought by sending a shot through traffic to open things up.
  • Panthers 2, Lightning 0 (1:24, 2nd): Sam Reinhart keeps the puck in the zone, and sends it to Sasha Barkov at the half-wall where he flips it to Evan Rodrigues in a tic-tac-toe play that Reinhart polishes off from the slot.
  • Panthers 2, Lightning 1 (0:28, 3rd): Niko Mikkola was guarding the front of the net and kicked a puck right onto the stick of Nikita Kucherov in the slot. Not a good place to do that.
  • Panthers 3, Lightning 1 (3:11, 3rd SH): Barkov helps free up a puck from Kucherov but Reinhart tracks it down as he got around Victor Hedman and beat Andrei Vasilevskiy
  • Panthers 3, Lightning 2 (3:31, 3rd PP): Michael Eyssimont takes a shot from the right flank that Ekblad initially blocked, only the puck ricocheted off his stick and went right back to Eyssimont. 


1. Sam Reinhart, Florida

2. Sergei Bobrovsky, Florida

3. Sasha Barkov, Florida

Panthers rangers



  • When: Friday, 7 p.m.
  • Where: Amerant Bank Arena, Sunrise
  • TV/Streaming: Bally Sports Florida, ESPN+
  • Radio: WPOW 96.5-FM2; WBZT 1230-AM (Palm Beach); WCTH 100.3-FM (Florida Keys); SiriusXM
  • Panthers Radio Streaming: SiriusXM 932, NHL App
  • Last Season: Rangers won 3-0
  • This Season — At Florida: Friday. At MSG: March 4; March 24.
  • All-time Regular Season Series: Rangers lead 60-32-8, 6 ties
  • Up Next for the Panthers: Saturday vs. Montreal Canadiens, 7 p.m.

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