Preseason game 4: Tampa Bay Lightning versus Florida Panthers

It took a shootout but the Tampa Bay Lightning remain undefeated in the preseason with a 5-4 win over the Florida Panthers Saturday night.

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 5-4 in a shootout victory in front of 13,135 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Saturday night,

Here's the great thing about preseason; If you're an optimist, you can see great things ahead for your team. If you're a pessimist, you can foretell a long season of gloom and doom. And if you're a realist, you can tell all of those other people to shut up because the games don't count. Still, sending the Lightning faithful home after a sloppy-but-never-boring win that pushes their preseason record to 4-0-0 is certainly more fun than the alternatives.

"It's better to be 4-0 than 0-4, so I think we are finding ways to win even though I think tonight wasn't our best night... it was a good team win." - Lightning forward Ryan Malone.

Malone started tonight's festivities when he scored on the wraparound, tucking the puck between the post and Panthers goaltender Jacob Markstrom's left skate at the 3:08 mark. Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos provided assists.

At 10:34 with the Lightning on a 5-on-3 power play, Martin St. Louis converted a one-timer from Steven Stamkos to double the lead. Teddy Purcell contributed the secondary assist.

The Lightning carried the 2-0 advantage into the first intermission.

Florida trimmed their deficit in half at 9:40 of the second when Erik Gudbranson, assisted by Dmitry Kulikov, scored on the power play

The Lightning stretched their lead back to two at 11:15 with J.T. Brown snapping the puck past Markstrom. Sami Salo provided the lone assist on the play.

The Panthers answered quickly, with Kulikov scoring at 12:10, ten seconds into another power play. He received helpers from Tom Gilbert and Tomas Kopecky.

At 17:38, Lightning starting goaltender Ben Bishop was felled by a shot he took to his upper right arm. He was examined briefly on the ice but remained in the game.

The score after two periods was 3-2, Tampa Bay.

The Panthers tied the game at 4:14 of the third on a goal by Bobby Butler, getting help from Kopecky and Vincent Trocheck.

The Lightning regained the lead at 12:35 when St. Louis and Stamkos connected again on a one-timer, this one more of a deflection than a shot and with St. Louis feeding Stamkos this time. Matt Carle got the secondary assist.

With a minute remaining in regulation, Florida pulled their goalie for an extra attacker but Markstrom didn't even make it off the ice before Butler tied the game again at 19:02, thanks to assists from Gudbranson and Kulikov.

The teams played a full overtime and three rounds of the shootout with only the Bolts' Jonathan Drouin finding the back of the net.

"That's why guys like that go third overall, because they have the talent to do that. I know it's the preseason but it's still the National Hockey League and a game is on the line... for an 18-year-old, that was a salty move, it was nice. Good to see he's not going to buckle under pressure." - Lightning head coach Jon Cooper

This was the final preseason game at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. They'll be in action again Tuesday in Nashville against the Predators.

Game notes:

  • The Lightning wore their white road uniforms tonight.
  • This was the fourth game in as many nights for the Lightning and Cooper says tomorrow's day off will be a welcome respite. "It's been all summer so their bodies are rested but their minds, it's gotta be tough on their minds to be up all the time, knowing their every move is being judged. We've been at the rink every single day. It's tough."
  • Not sure how much consideration is given to alliteration when designating team captains, but sharing the duties tonight were Sami Salo, Steven Stamkos and (Martin) St. Louis.
  • The Lightning began the day by trimming 18 players from the training camp roster, reducing the number of players still in camp to 40. Another four were shed immediately after the game.
  • After Tuesday's game in Nashville, the Bolts return for a "home" game in Estero (home of the Lightning's ECHL affiliate, the Florida Everblades) Thursday night before closing out the exhibition schedule with a visit to Sunrise to play the Panthers next Saturday.