On the heels of a 3-2 loss in their preseason opener, the Tampa Bay Lightning looked to bounce back against their in-state rival Florida Panthers despite playing without the majority of their big-name players. Thanks to their penalty killing, goaltending, and timely scoring, the Lightning picked up their first victory of the preseason.
Jeremy Morin score what would turn out to be the game-winning goal in the second period while adding an assist, Kristers Gudlevskis made 21 saves, and Brayden Point tacked on an insurance goal to give the Lightning a 2-0 win over the Panthers at Amalie Arena. Tampa Bay’s penalty killing unit came up huge, killing off all six Florida power plays and only allowing five shots on those man-advantage opportunities. Bolts head coach Jon Cooper praised his team’s overall effort despite the inexperience of most of the players involved at the NHL level.
“I was really happy with everybody. We went down the lineup and through everybody that stepped on the ice tonight, I’m really happy with the effort,” said Cooper.
Over the course of the first 10 minutes of the game, the Lightning kept the ice tilted in their favor, spending some extended time in the Panthers’ zone despite not having a huge advantage in shots. Mike Halmo nearly put Tampa Bay up 1-0 after he gathered a pass low in the left circle and made a nice move to his backhand, but Panthers goalie James Reimer was there to make the save. A few minutes later, Daniel Walcott laid a big hit on a Panthers’ player at Florida’s blue line, springing Yanni Gourde for a chance, only to be denied by Reimer’s blocker. The rebounds were there, but nobody was in a spot to put them home for the Bolts. About halfway through the period, Florida began tilting the ice back in their favor, forcing Gudlevskis to make a pair of big saves, including a nice glove stop on former Bolt Jonathan Marchessault following a turnover at Tampa Bay’s blue line. With five minutes left, Brian Boyle took a hooking penalty, and then Cedric Paquette went to the penalty box for hooking 13 seconds later, giving the Panthers an extended 5-on-3 power play. The Bolts’ young penalty killers stepped up, as guys like Gabriel Dumont, Tanner Richard, and Gourde all chipping in to clear the puck out at key points, while Gudlevskis made another stop on Marchessault to keep Florida off the board. After killing off the 5-on-3, Halmo took a boarding penalty, but the Lightning were able to kill it off, as Erik Condra nearly scored shorthanded off a turnover by the Panthers’ net. Both teams has seven shots on goal as they went to the intermission scoreless.
One of the biggest takeaways from this game was the amount of turnovers by both teams. Early in the second period, a Lightning turnover by Paquette led to a scoring chance for Dryden Hunt. At the 3:54 mark, a Panthers turnover would result in the first goal of the night. Tampa Bay’s Brayden Point pressured Florida defenseman Michael Matheson in the near-side corner in the Panthers’ zone. Matheson sent a pass towards the slot that didn’t get picked up by teammate Logan Shaw. The puck continued to drift in front of the Panthers’ net, where Bolts forward Jeremy Morin was there to jump on it and slip a shot past Reimer for an unassisted goal, his first of the preseason on the Lightning’s first shot of the period.
“I was just trying not to panic, it came right to my stick,” said Morin. “I was just trying to open him up and I did. Just trying to slide it through and it bounced off his pad and went in, which was nice.”
A penalty for too many men on the ice against the Panthers with 13:59 left gave the Bolts another power play, and they nearly converted. Some great puck movement and extended pressure by Tampa Bay was highlighted by a beautiful centering pass from Michael Bournival to Point, whose one-timer from the slot was denied by Reimer. With three seconds left on the man-advantage, Gourde took a hooking penalty for the Bolts, leading to another power play for Florida. There was a very scary moment for Tampa Bay, as a Panther shot was stopped by Gudlevskis, but bounced into the air and landed behind the Lightning’s goaltender in the crease. Fortunately for the Bolts, Slater Koekkoek was there to save the day, swatting the puck away just before it crossed the goal line. The Lighting’s penalty kill also continued to impress, as Boyle had a shorthanded opportunity stopped by Reimer, and right after the end of the Panthers’ last power play chance of the period, Condra led an odd-man rush and fed the puck to a trailing Jake Dotchin, whose shot was knocked away by Reimer. After two periods, Tampa Bay held a 19-14 edge in shots on goal.
After the second intermission, the Panthers made a goaltending change, putting Reto Berra between the pipes, while the Lightning continued to stick with Gudlevskis. Through the early stages of the third period, there were no major scoring chances for either team, but halfway through the period, both teams began to take penalties again, as the Panthers’ Dryden Hunt was whistled for hooking Matthew Peca, and it led to some extended pressure in the Florida zone. Gourde had a great chance to increase the Lightning’s lead to two, but his shot from the low part of the left circle was smothered by Berra. James Wisniewski had a couple of big shots from the point, one of which was tipped away by Berra. Near the end of the man-advantage, the Bolts were called for too many men on the ice, but their penalty killers would come up big again, with Condra again leading the way. He found himself with the puck in the neutral zone and led a rush with Paquette. Condra dished it to Paquette, but the shot was just wide of the net. Desperate for an insurance goal, the Bolts finally got it with 5:12 left when Morin and Point combined to help give the Lightning a 2-0 lead. Morin gathered a Panthers turnover in the left circle, skated in, and took a wrist shot that was stopped by Berra. The save left a big rebound that Point whacked into the net from the slot, earning him his second goal of the preseason while giving the Lightning their first victory of the preseason.
THREE STARS OF THE GAME
1st Star: Kristers Gudlevskis – Made 21 saves to earn his first win and shutout of the preseason.
2nd Star: Jeremy Morin – Tallied the game-winning goal in the second period and got the assist on Brayden Point’s insurance goal in the third.
3rd Star: Slater Koekkoek – Didn’t register a shot on goal, but made arguably the biggest play of the game in the second period when he cleared a loose puck out of the crease just before it crossed the goal line, keeping the Panthers off the scoreboard. Might have been a different game if Florida had tied it on that shot.
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