Aaron Ekblad and Alexander Wennberg each had a goal and an assist and Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 19 shots as the Florida Panthers posted a 5-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, ending their cross-state rival’s six-game winning streak. Florida won consecutive games in regulation for the first time this season and Ekblad and Wennbeg took First and Second star honors.
The Panthers were aggressive from the start and scored the only goal of the first period at the 8:56 mark when Owen Tippett claimed his own rebound after being denied by Andrei Vasilevskiy and then put the follow-up wide before setting up Frank Vatrano from behind the net. The secondary helper on the Vatrano’s second of the season went to Eetu Luostarinen, giving the entire third line a point.
Since Tippett’s effort tends to get questioned, he gets a look today’s twitter replay for his good work.
PANTHERS GET ON THE BOARD FIRST— FOX Sports Florida & Sun (@FOXSportsFL) February 12, 2021
Vatrano from Tippett -- Panthers lead 1-0‼️#TBLvsFLA #FlaPanthers #OneTerritory #NHL
Watch @FlaPanthers :
: FOX Sports Florida
: https://t.co/MMXQ2IlUqq pic.twitter.com/ooWGFAw0qy
Florida poured in three more in the second period to offset Brayden Point’s first of two highlight reel, if you’re a Lightning fan, goals.
Wennberg finished off a pretty pass from Jonathan Huberdeau on a play that became a two-on-one when Victor Hedman got caught in the neutral zone and couldn’t catch up to the speedier center. Ekblad hammered home a power-play goal after taking a return pass from Keith Yandle, and former Bolt Carter Verhaeghe capped off the outburst with his team-leading seventh goal. Like Tippett, Verhaeghe hunted down a loose puck after having his shot blocked, fed in front for Wennberg and got rewarded when it deflected in off Erik Cernak’s skate.
After worming his way between MacKenzie Weegar and Wennberg and chipping the puck off Bobrovsky’s pad in the middle fame, Point took a stretch pass from Hedman and roofed one short-side from a sharp after Bob dropped down too early 54 seconds into the third with Luostarinen still off for hooking.
That would be all she wrote offensively for the Bolts and Brett Connolly scored a rare goal (his first of the campaign) from center ice into an empty net to put the exclamation point on the Panthers most impressive win of the season.
The Cats got points from 12 different players (Patric Hornqvist, Aleksander Barkov and Weegar also had assists), a solid performance from Bobrovsky, and limited the best team in the NHL, who to be fair were without Steven Stamkos, to a mere 21 shots on goal.
Round two of the Battle of Florida will be tomorrow night at the BB&T Center,
Flash & Dash
- In addition to his goal, Carter Verhaeghe registered a game-high five shots, dished out four hits, had one block, and finished with a +2 rating in his first game against his former team.
- He’s not really known for goal-scoring, but don’t look now, Alexander Wennberg has lit the lamp in three straight games.
- Jonathan Huberdeau made a little franchise history last night. He is the first Panther to eve hit the 300-assist mark. Huberdeau’s 15 points through the team’s first 11 games of a season matches Scott Mellanby in 1995-96 for the most in franchise history.
- Aleksander Barkov assist was his 419th NHL point, moving him into a tie with Olli Jokinen for second-most points in franchise history.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 of 28 shots for the Lightning in his third defeat of the season.
- Anthony Duclair was added to the NHL’s COVID list and replaced on the top line by Brett Connolly.
- For more on this most satisfying win, get your morning jolt over at Raw Charge.