Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers game preview
The Florida Panthers were ecstatic after stealing a victory away from the rival Tampa Bay Lightning, who were deflated by the defeat.
These teams are in completely opposite moods heading into Monday night’s rematch in Sunrise following a thriller which featured four lead changes and two penalty shots.
Tampa Bay (8-8-3) snapped a third-period tie on Vladislav Namestnikov’s second goal of the game and seemed headed for victory Saturday at home, but winger Ryan Callahan was penalized for a delay of game after firing the puck over the glass, and Florida capitalized on Aaron Ekblad’s tying goal with 38 seconds left.
Brandon Pirri scored the lone shootout goal to cap the Panthers’ 5-4 victory.
"Guys are excited after a win like that," Ekblad said. "Confidence is what it’s all about. It’s a good rivalry, the Battle of Florida. Sometimes that gets overlooked."
Pirri converted a penalty shot in the second period, while Steven Stamkos had an attempt in overtime stopped by Roberto Luongo, who recorded his 406th victory to move one shy of tying Glenn Hall for eighth place on the all-time list.
"It’s a good character win for the boys," Luongo said. "I really wanted to make sure that I made the saves when I had to."
The Lightning missed a chance to win back-to-back games for the first time since a 3-0-0 start. They are 3-6-2 in their last 11.
"We did a lot of good things," coach Jon Cooper said. "We had the lead right to the bitter end. It’s tough. Guys are battling. We just don’t have a ton to show for it."
Tampa Bay fell to 14-2-2 in the last 18 overall meetings. Florida (7-7-3) now seeks only its second win in the previous nine matchups at home.
"We beat a real good team in their building," coach Gerard Gallant said. "We play them again Monday night, but we’ve got to be better so we need to keep getting better and getting points."
The physical contest saw the Panthers’ Shawn Thornton and Lightning’s J.T. Brown both draw misconduct penalties for an altercation in the third period.
Namestnikov ended a 10-game goal drought in his second straight contest alongside Stamkos and Callahan on the top line. Stamkos assisted on both of Namestnikov’s goals to give him seven points in seven games.
Tampa Bay has one of the league’s worst offenses with 2.4 goals per game.
"We can’t give up that many goals obviously," Stamkos said. "Hopefully the offense can build some confidence on this one."
Florida’s attack may be bolstered Monday since center Aleksander Barkov could return from missing 10 games with a hand injury.
Panthers defenseman Dmitry Kulikov is expected to miss his first game after he exited Saturday with a lower-body injury.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop made 19 saves Saturday to drop to 6-1-1 with a 2.17 goals-against average in eight starts against the Panthers. He is 1-5-1 with a 1.86 GAA in his last seven starts.