The Tampa Bay Lightning won their final preseason game at home on Saturday against the Florida Panthers, with a 4-1 win.
The game began with a slow first period, resulting in a Panther goal by Mike Santorelli thirteen minutes in (13:51). The wrist shot had a difficult bounce, defeating goalie Mike Smith as the Panthers opened up the scoring 1-0.
"But once we settled down, we took over" said Marty St. Louis in an interview after the game.
And following the first period, the Lightning snapped together, and broke out of the freeze, overcoming the fears of playing the first exhibition game at home, or of the pressure of the fans.
With an assist from St. Louis, Lecavalier evened the score with a power play goal early in the second period (4:32). The Panther's cards began to fall as Tampa Bay continued to pick up the pace. Next came a goal from Steven Stamkos, assisted by Steve Downie and again, St. Louis (7:22). Two minutes later, on another power play, Steven Stamkos was set up nicely with a pass from Vincent Lecavalier, scoring with a slapshot (9:20). The Lightning ended the second period in the lead at 3-1.
The Lightning continued to play well in the third, peaked when Sean Bergenheim scored, assisted by Eric Perrin's pass from around the net (7:44), finishing the game with a 4-1 score for the Lightning win.
Head Coach Guy Boucher was somewhat pleased. "We're far from where we want to be, but closer to it." Afterwards, he said the he wants to see less opposing shots, and a steady attitude from the players until the game ends:
"Relentless pursuit of the sixty minutes is what we want."
What's important, Boucher said, is that the team is beginning to see that what they are doing works. He said the intensity was there, but that they need to develop more championship habits.
Lecavalier echoed this confidence in Guy Boucher's system, noting that he it was helping to see Boucher's system in action, during a game:
"It's obviously an adjustment, but we have another week of practice to work on it even better. Just to see it on the ice in a game, from the first game till now, it feels a lot better. Visually, it feels a lot better."
Despite the obvious boost in confidence, ending the preseason with a win, and a 4-1-1 record, Mike Smith said:
"Preseason is one thing, but the real season is coming up next. I think we'll be focused for that."