The Florida Panthers ended its six-game road trip on a high note with a 5-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, handing Vezina-favorite Andrei Vasilevskiy his first loss at Amalie Arena this season.
Five different Cats lit the lamp, including defenseman Brandon Montour, whose shot from the left point bounced in off a Lightning player defending in front to open the scoring.
Sam Bennett, making his first appearance with Florida, got his first assist with his new team on Montour’s first goal as a Cat. Bennett would collect a second assist later in the opening frame when Jonathan Huberdeau punched in Markus Nutivaara’s rebound to give the Panthers a 3-1 lead,
A determined Aleksander Barkov created the Cats second goal, on a power play, when he took a nice pass from yet another newcomer, Nikita Gusev, and put his own rebound behind Vasilevskiy off the leg of Patric Hornqvist, who was created with his 14th goal.
Frank Vatrano’s unassisted breakaway beauty at 17:34 of the second period turned out to be the game-winner.
Frank Vatrano puts his world-class SPEED on display! ️ ️ ️ ️— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) April 18, 2021
4 #FLAvsTBL 1 #FlaPanthers #OneTerritory #NHL
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Anthony Duclair would put the icing on the cake with an impressive empty-netter at 19:10 of the third, with the lone assist going to thumper Radko Gudas, his 100th helper in the NHL.
Brayden Point, Erik Cernak and Mathieu Joseph were the Lightning players that beat Sergei Bobrovsky, who finished the game with 28 saves - one more than Vasilevskiy. Tampa Bay’s first and third goals came off of redirections from in close. Bobrovsky make a huge pad stop on Point with 4:21 remaining and Florida nursing a one-goal lead.
Sergei Bobrovsky turns away a dangerous Brayden Point late in the 3rd.— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) April 18, 2021
4 #FLAvsTBL 3 #FlaPanthers #OneTerritory #NHL pic.twitter.com/DeatueplUE
The key to this win was Florida’s efficient first period. Despite the Lightning being the better of the two teams during the opening twenty minutes, the Panthers scored three times and killed off two penalties to go to the dressing room with a two-goal lead they would not relinquish. Newcomers Montour, Bennett and Gusev produced a combined goal and three assists, and Lucas Wallmark went 4/7 on faceoffs and registered three hits in 10:57 TOI. The post trade deadline Panthers look deeper and like they could be more balanced. Big ups to the team for bouncing back and collecting five points after dropping the first three games of a difficult road trip. The Cats will return home for a back-to-back set against the fading Columbus Blue Jackets starting on Monday.
Flash & Dash
- Sam Bennett became the third Panther this season to record multiple points in their Florida debut. Eetu Luostarinen and Patric Hornqvist each posted a goal and an assist in their debuts on January 17 versus the Chicago Blackhawks.
- In addition to scoring his first goal as a Panther, Brandon Montour tied for the team lead with Bennett, Anthony Duclair and Jonathan Huberdeau with a +3 rating.
- Speaking of Huberdeau, he notched his 15th goal of the season, and first in the month of April, extending his point streak to three games.
- Anthony Duclair scored a goal for the second consecutive game. He has produced a point in each of his past five games played (3G/2A).
- Frank Vatrano goal was his team-leading sixth game-winning goal of the season. His six winners are tied for fifth-most in the NHL.
- Victor Hedman had two assists to give him a total of 401 in the NHL. He is the first Lightning player to reach the 400=assist plateau. Other Bolts with helpers were Mikhail Sergachev, Ondrej Palat, Blake Coleman and Brayden Point.
- Ten Panthers recorded at least one point and 12 different Panthers registered multiple shots on goal.
- The Battle of the Sunshine State is now even at threes. Plug into Raw Charge for the other side of Florida’s latest win.