Here's hoping that the preseason really doesn't mean anything, because the Florida Panthers have done very little to inspire confidence going into Thursday night's opener against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Bolts cruised past the Panthers 4-1 last night at Amalie Arena, sending the punchless Cats to an 0-4-2 finish in this year's slate of exhibition games.
The Panthers got off to a good start, grabbing the lead just 3:21 into the first period when Aleksander Barkov deflected in a Brian Campbell shot with Florida enjoying an early power play. Dmitry Kulikov picked the second helper on Barkov's first of the preseason.
Tampa Bay responded quickly as a big hit from Victor Hedmen freed up the puck for Nikita Kucherov, who bagged his sixth of the preseason to tie the game just over two minutes later.
Steven Stamkos scored a power-play goal midway through the period and J.T. Brown made it 3-1 Bolts by driving a one-timer past Al Montoya with 1:01 remaining in the opening frame. Montoya played all 60 minutes for the Cats and finished with 24 stops.
Anton Stralman scored another power-play goal 4:40 into the second period, a slapper from Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn, to complete the scoring.
The game was not as one-sided as the score ended up being. The Panthers outshot the Lightning 37-28 but could not get anything by Bolts' keeper Ben Bishop.
Tampa Bay beat Florida twice in a row to close out the preseason. The Sunshine State's two teams will meet Thursday in Tampa to open the regular season. The Panthers will have find a way to score some goals, tighten up on defense, and get their wonky penalty kill sorted out if they want to come away with a win. Things get real really soon.