EditorsNote: Edit 1: Adds home-opening win streak
Reigning NHL scoring leader Nikita Kucherov tallied a goal and an assist, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy recorded 35 saves to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a season-opening 5-2 win over the visiting Florida Panthers on Thursday night.
Winners of last year’s Presidents’ Trophy in a 62-16-4 season, Tampa Bay never trailed and pulled away by scoring three times in the third period for their eighth straight win in a home opener.
Kevin Shattenkirk, Ondrej Palat, Pat Maroon and Erik Cernak notched goals. Mikhail Sergachev contributed three assists while Alex Killorn added two for the Lightning.
Vasilevskiy faced 37 shots in earning the win.
Center Carter Verhaeghe was plus-1 and logged 10:55 of ice in his NHL debut.
Vincent Trocheck scored and had an assist, and Mike Hoffman also netted a marker for the Panthers, who lost in the debut of new coach Joel Quenneville.
Free agent acquisition Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 29 shots in his first start for Florida.
The Lightning, who had a historic 128-point campaign last season, struck first on a delayed penalty by holding possession for 32 seconds with Vasilevskiy on the bench and an extra attacker on the ice.
Kucherov, who produced a franchise-record 128 points last season, put the home side up 1-0 at 6:39 of the first period when he wired a one-timer from just inside the right circle off a pass from Sergachev.
Hoffman skated through the slot, took a no-look feed from Trocheck behind Vasilevskiy and popped in a shot at 2:35 of the second for a 1-1 tie.
Newcomer Shattenkirk tallied for the first time as a member of the Lightning when his high shot deflected off Florida’s Frank Vatrano and flew over Bobrovsky and in at 10:28 just as Tampa Bay’s first power play ended.
Trocheck skated in alone and scored a short-handed goal at 8:49 of the third for a 2-2 tie, but Palat batted in a power-play marker just 45 seconds later as the Lightning regained the lead for the third time.
Maroon scored at 13:51 for the game’s first two-goal lead, and Cernak had an empty-netter with 46 seconds remaining.
The two Atlantic Division rivals will meet again on Saturday night in Sunrise for Florida’s home opener.
The contest will be their fifth meeting in 12 days since exhibition games began during camp.
—Field Level Media