Tampa Bay opened the scoring at the 12:29 mark of the first period when Nikita Kucherov put his own rebound by Florida starter Al Montoya. Matthew Peca and Vladislav Namestnikov combined on the assists.
The Lightning doubled its lead early in the second period on a goal from former Ottawa Senator Erik Condra. Condra took a feed from Brian Boyle and put it past Montoya just 65 seconds into the frame. Adam Erne picked up the secondary assist on the play.
Peca bagged a goal of his own midway through the stanza, tipping the puck home with the helpers going to Ryan Callahan and Namestnikov.
Kucherov notched his second goal of the night to cap Tampa Bay's second period onslaught at 12:26 Jonathan Drouin and superstar Steven Stamkos were credited with the assists.
The Panthers finally got on the board at 9:05 of the third period. Vincent Trocheck beat Kristers Gudlevskis with a shot that drew a lengthy discussion among the officials before finally being awarded. Brandon Pirri and Jussi Jokinen got the helpers on the power-play goal.
Montoya went the distance in goal for the Cats, finishing with 25 saves on 29 shots.
Ben Bishop started for the Lightning and stopped all 18 shots he faced to get the win. Gudlevskis stopped 17 of the 18 shots he saw after coming in in relief.
Dallas figures in the plans of both teams this weekend. The Lightning will play the Stars tonight at American Airlines Center, while the Panthers will be in action there on Sunday.
Odds & Ends
- Aaron Ekblad had a game-high six shots on goal and led all skaters in ice time, playing 25:10 of the tilt.
- Every Panthers skater finished at least -1 except Connor Brickley, Derek MacKenzie and Shawn Thornton, who finished even on the night. "The Brick" dished out a game-high six hits.
- The Cats penalty kill went a perfect five for five versus the Lightning's deadly power play.
- Tampa Bay defensemen Slater Koekkoek (great name) and Jake Dotchin each finished with +3 rating.
- With Florida's roster down to 31, on-the-bubble forwards Garrett Wilson and Shane Harper were the only Cats skaters who failed to register a shot on goal. Portland looming?