EditorsNote: 2nd update, add Bay to first graf
Mike Hoffman produced a hat trick on Saturday night as the host Florida Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 to win their home opener in Sunrise, Fla.
The win also answered the Lightning’s 5-2 home victory in the season opener for both teams on Thursday.
Hoffman, who scored a career-high 36 goals last season and is in the final season of his contract, already has four goals in two games. His first two goals on Saturday were power-play wrist shots from the right circle — both on passes from Jonathan Huberdeau. Hoffman’s third goal came on his deflection of an Aaron Ekblad shot just 17 seconds into the third period.
Noel Acciari, who helped the Boston Bruins reach the 2019 Stanley Cup Finals, scored his first goal in a Panthers sweater.
Goalie Sergei Bobrovsky made 32 saves to earn his first win with the Panthers. After leading the Columbus Blue Jackets to a first-round sweep of the Lightning in last season’s playoffs, Bobrovsky signed a seven-year, $70 million contract with Florida.
Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy last season, made 24 stops.
Gemel Smith, Steven Stamkos and Mathieu Joseph scored for Tampa Bay.
Florida opened the scoring with 9:39 elapsed in the second period. The Panthers’ power play, which had come up empty in their first five attempts this season, clicked this time as Huberdeau held the puck, waiting for Hoffman to get open. Finally, as Huberdeau skated just behind the end line, he slipped a pass to Hoffman at the right circle.
Just 86 seconds later, that same duo connected again. This time, Huberdeau delivered a cross-ice pass to Hoffman for the goal.
Florida made it 3-0 on the goal by Acciari just 87 seconds after that. Acciari, undrafted out of Providence College and known as a grinder, showed skill as he maneuvered the puck to his backhand for the goal.
Thanks to fine work by its fourth line, Tampa Bay cut its deficit to 3-1 with 16:23 gone in the second. Pat Maroon’s shot on goal was stopped, but Luke Witkowski shoved the rebound toward an open net. Ultimately, Smith got credit for the goal as he got the last, and slight, touch on the puck before it hit the back of the net.
Hoffman and Stamkos traded goals in the first seven minutes of the third period, leaving Florida with a 4-2 lead. Joseph scored with 4:19 left in the third, but the Panthers held on for the win.
—Field Level Media