The new-look Florida Panthers hung with the Tampa Bay Lightning for most of the game, but Ondrej Palat’s third period power-play goal 45 seconds after Vincent Trocheck tied the game shorthanded sparked last season’s President’s Trophy winners to a 5-2 win at Amalie Arena in the season-opener for both teams.
Nikita Kucherov scored the only goal of the first period 6:39 after puck drop when he one-timed a feed from Mikhail Sergachev from the top of the right circle past Sergei Bobrovsky to wipe out a pending penalty on the Panthers.
The Panthers put 12 shots on Andrei Vasilevskiy in the opening period, including a late breakaway attempt by Evgenii Dadonov, but would have to wait until the middle frame to strike pay dirt.
Florida first of the 2019-20 campaign came 2:35 into the second after Brett Connolly tracked down the rebound of MacKenzie Weegar’s shot and banged it around the boards to Trocheck, who centered from behind the net to Mike Hoffman, who quickly converted the pass.
The Cats had a great chance to take the lead soon afterwards, however Vasilevskiy denied Dadonov again, this time on a 2-on-0 break with Aleksander Barkov. Second guessing here, but Dadonov probably should’ve went right back to Barkov for what would have been an empty-net put away as the Lightning goaltender had him angled off.
Summer free agent signing Kevin Shattenkirk put the home team back ahead at the 10:28 mark, right after Jonathan Huberdeau’s hooking had expired, with a long shot that sailed over Bobrovsky’s left shoulder.
Florida evened things up 8:49 into the final frame when Aaron Ekblad sent Trocheck away on a shorthanded break and the second line center snapped a wrister over Vasilevskiy glove.
Unfortunately, the Panthers failed to kill off the rest of the penalty and Palat bagged the eventual game-winner when he batted in the rebound of Alex Killorn’s deflection of Sergachev’s initial shot. It was the second assist of the night for Killorn and third for Sergachev.
Pat Maroon gave Tampa Bay some breathing room when he put in a rebound that came off the backboards after Victor Hedman missed wide from the slot. Bobrovsky lost sight of the puck and moved to other post, allowing Maroon to score easily. Again, the goal came right after a penalty expired.
Erik Cernak completed the scoring with a long-range empty-netter after Anthony Cirelli won a face-off at the Panthers’ blue line.
The Cats played pretty well for most of the game and ended up out-shooting the Lightning by a 37-30 margin, but they were done in by their own mistakes in a performance that was disturbingly reminiscent of a lot of last season’s losses as they could not find a way to get a least a point out of a game that was briefly tied midway through the third.
Officially, Tampa Bay went 1 for 3 on the power play, but in reality they converted all three opportunities as one goal came a second after the penalty expired and another two seconds after the penalty expired. And, the first goal came with an extra attacker on as a delayed penalty was in effect.
The Panthers, who boasted the NHL second-best power play last season, generated seven shots on its four power-play chances and came up empty in what turned out to be a disappointing start to the new season.