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Panthers conclude Southeast Rookie Showcase with 3-2 win over Lightning

Photo Credit: thebiz34

The Florida Panthers survived a rocky start and had to hang on to defeat the Tampa Bay Lightning by a 3-2 count in the final game of the 2023 Southeast Rookie Showcase to finish the event with a 2-1 record.

A sluggish start and early tripping minors on Justin Sourdif and Skyler Brind’Amour put the Panthers on their heels, but they were able to kill off both penalties and got some great goaltending from Mack Guzda to somehow keep the game scoreless, despite surrendering the first 14 shots.

Although Jake Wise hit the cross bar, the near-miss finally broke the Lightning’s long spell of dominance and Florida got a man-advantage chance when Ethan Gauthier knocked diminutive defenseman Mike Benning to the ice.

On the ensuing power-play, Benning traded the puck and places with Sourdif before sending a crossing pass to Mackie Samoskevich, who blistered a wrist shot by Hugo Alnefelt with 7:06 remaining in the opening frame.

With Guzda continuing to provide a wall in the Florida zone, the Cats got a little bit of puck luck to take a two-goal lead in the second.

After collecting a turnover, Riley Bezeau took off from his own end and crossed the Tampa Bay blue line 1-on-2. A Bolts backchecker poked the puck loose, only to see it end up on the stick of an unmarked Wilmer Skoog. The opportunistic Swede slung a shot home at the 8:11 mark to double the fun.

The Panthers had a great chance to add on, but with Felix Robert serving a double-minor for high-sticking, Davies caught iron late in the period after taking a nice feed from Samoskevich.

Once the penalties ended early in the third, the Lightning broke out down the right side and Robert converted a crossing pass from Waltteri Merelä to halve the deficit at 1:44.

Heavy pressure from Florida’s fourth line produced the eventual game-winning goal midway through the stanza. After keeping the Bolts from exiting their zone, Patrick Giles, with some help from Skyler Brind’Amour, eventually worked the puck free behind the net and centered in front to Kai Schwindt. Schwindt fanned on the shot, but Giles had smartly circled the net and was there to easily deposit the loose puck past an out-of-position Alnefelt.

Tampa Bay would not go quietly into the late afternoon. The Lightning cut the lead back down to one with 8:33 remaining after Declan Carlile won a defensive zone draw to Roman Schmidt, who headmanned to Maxim Groshev. The speedy Groshev wheeled around a stumbling Benning and beat Guzda stick-side.

The Cats killed off some late penalties, including a roughing call on Calle Själin with 33.7 seconds left, and held on to post the win.

Guzda, who made 33 stops in regulation, was perfect in the shootout and Samoskevich and Schwindt were able to solve Alnefelt.

In the early game, the Carolina Hurricanes defeated the Nashville Predators 3-2 to finish the showcase with a perfect 3-0 record.

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