Recap: Panthers open season with 2-1 shootout loss to Lightning

Cats lose MacKenzie, Luongo and then the lead

The Florida Panthers went on the road and outplayed the Tampa Bay Lightning, but could not build on a 1-0 lead and eventually lost the game 2-1 in a shootout.

Jacob MacDonald, the feel good story of training camp, opened the scoring 5:58 into first game, lighting the lamp on the first shot of his NHL debut. Vincent Trocheck worked his way down the right side, fending off Victor Hedman in the process, to find MacDonald open in the left circle and he beat Andrei Vasilveskiy five hole. Jonathan Huberdeau picked up the second assist on the play.

Vasilevskiy would not yield another goal, finishing with 42 saves to deny the Panthers a winning start to its 25th anniversary season.

After Derek MacKenzie left the game in the first period with an upper-body injury, the Cats lost Roberto Luongo 12:21 into the middle frame when Frank Vatrano tripped over Mark Pysyk and fell on his extended right leg right after the veteran keeper made a save. Luongo stopped all 13 shots he faced and looked sharp in doing so. Hopefully, the injury isn’t too serious, but expect a call-up for Michael Hutchinson.

Anthony Cirelli finally made the Panthers pay for not extending the lead with a shorthanded goal with 9:15 left in regulation. On a two-on-one break, Cirelli tried to pass across to Alex Killorn. Aleksander Barkov made a nice play to block the pass, but the puck bounced off him into James Reimer and came loose for Cirelli to tap home.

Florida’s power play went 0 for 5 and surrender the shorty, another huge reason why they left Amalie Arena with a loss.

The Panthers out-shot the Lightning 4-3 in an overtime which didn’t produce a winner so the game went to a shootout.

J.T. Miller was the first shooter and he slowly moved in on Reimer before flipping the puck off his blocker and into the top of the net.

Mike Hoffman failed to score and Vasilevskiy denied Barkov, while Reimer stopped Brayden Point in the second round,

Nikita Kucherov ended it in the top of the third round, patiently waiting before ripping a low wrister into the back of the cage.

The Panthers did a lot of things right in this one, but found a way to lose instead of coming away with two points. They out-shot the Lightning by a wide margin (43-29) and completely dominated the first and third periods. Florida’s experimental power play with five forwards not only came up empty, it surrendered the tying goal. A frustrating opener as there were so many positive takeaways that got washed away by the bad taste of the final result.

Bolts & Dolts

  • Jacob MacDonald earned third star honors in first NHL game. In addition to notching his first goal, MacDonald logged 10:28 TOI and registered a hit and a +1 rating.
  • The Panthers limited Lightning star Steven Stamkos to just three shots on goal. Stamkos did dish out four hits.
  • Mike Hoffman  had a game-high six shots (tied with Evgenii Dadonov) in his Florida debut. Hoffman also blocked a shot and was on the ice for both the MacDonald and Cirelli goals.
  • The Cats penalty kill went a perfect 3 for 3 against Tampa Bay’s vaunted power play.
  • Mathieu Joseph, who gave the Panthers fits in the preseason, made his NHL debut for the Lightning and finished with two shots and three hits in 13:50 TOI.
  • James Reimer stopped 15 of 16 shots in relief of Luongo.
  • The Lightning won it’s fifth straight home opener, more on this at Raw Charge./