The Tampa Bay Lightning hope to get more consistent secondary scoring this season and, if the season opener was any indication, they may have a newly constructed line that can provide it. Linemates Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat look to follow up a strong debut together when the Lightning visit the Florida Panthers on Saturday for the back end of a home-and-home series between the Sunshine State rivals.
Palat scored twice while Point added a goal and two assists while playing with the gritty Yanni Gourde, as Tampa Bay recorded a 5-3 home victory over the Panthers on Friday despite being outshot 36-25. “They’re all smart players and were able to feed off each other tonight,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters after notching an assist in his first game since Nov. 15, when he suffered a knee injury. “That line carried us and played extremely well. Hopefully, that’s a sign to come.” The Panthers carried the play for much of the game but did not capitalize enough on their possession advantage and could not hold the Lightning down in the first half of the third period. “The boys played hard,” Florida’s rookie coach Bob Boughner told reporters. “My message after the game was, if we play like that, we’re going to win our share of games. I wasn’t unhappy with the effort. Sometimes the execution has to be better.”
TV: 7 p.m. ET, FSN Sun (Tampa Bay), FSN Florida
ABOUT THE LIGHTNING (1-0-0): Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 33 shots and made some big saves after the Panthers closed within 4-3, prompting defenseman Anton Stralman to tell reporters, “I expect nothing else.” Stralman matched his career best with a plus-4 rating on Friday while playing alongside 19-year-old rookie Mikhail Sergachev, who tied for the team lead with four shots in his debut with Tampa Bay. Stamkos played with Nikita Kucherov and Vladislav Namestnikov, who each recorded a goal in the third period, and the trio combined for nine shots in the opener.
ABOUT THE PANTHERS (0-1-0): Connor Brickley scored a goal in the opener to match his total in 23 games with Florida in 2015-16 and primarily played on a line with center Nick Bjugstad and Jared McCann. Evgenii Dadonov took Jaromir Jagr’s spot on a line with Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau, and the 28-year-old Russian registered an assist in his first NHL game since the 2011-12 season. Roberto Luongo, who may give way to James Reimer on Saturday, told reporters “I need to be better” after giving up two soft goals to put the Panthers in a 2-0 hole.
1. The 24-year-old Huberdeau tallied on Friday to pull within one point of 200 in his career while Barkov is two assists from 100.
2. Tampa Bay D Dan Girardi recorded six blocked shots and four hits in his debut after being signed as a free agent in the offseason.
3. The Panthers have won four straight over the Lightning at home, allowing one goal in each of their two victories last campaign.
PREDICTION: Panthers 4, Lightning 2