Tampa Defeats Panther's Rookies in Third Pre-Season Game

TAMPA—The Florida Panthers rolled into the Tampa Bay area looking to see what some of their “blue chip” prospects were going to do. This years third overall pick in the NHL Entry Draft Jonathan Huberdeau and last years counterpart Erik Gudbranson, as well as Super-Prospect Jacob Markstrom all were expected to play, as the Cats looked to ground the Lightning in their third preseason game. The atmosphere ramping up to the game was “charged” as the Lightning faithful came out in full force to see their playoff heroes return to the ice, including players such as Vincent Lecavalier, Marty St,Louis and sensation Steven Stamkos.

The Florida Panthers answered the Lightning’s “big three” with Jonathan Huberdeau, Steve Reinprecht, Marcel Goc, Keaton Ellerby, Erik Gudbranson and Jacob Markstrom. Hoping to see what the youngsters have in them before going with the starters Saturday nights at the Bank Atlantic Center.

The first period was full of near misses and crazy penalties as the Lightning’s starters mercilessly pounded the baby Panthers. However the Lightning paid the price for their aggressiveness taking five stupid penalties in the first period of play. Mattias Ritola got the go ahead goal for the Lightning with a back handed shot over the left shoulder of Jacob Markstrom. Ritola almost got a second goal, but referee Chris Rooney had already blown the whistle to call a penalty on the Lightning.

The second period started off with more calls going both ways before Ryan Shannon got another on Markstrom bringing the tampa energy up. The Panthers continued on with some great chances of their own until Shannon scored again on a sweet no look pass from Stamkos.

The third period opened up with Carter Ashton just tossing the puck towards Markstrom and it casually rolling past him.  This was not the start Markstrom intended for sure, letting in five goals in his preseason debut. Even though Skille and Repik would score it was not enough to help the Panthers come back.

“I don’t want to let goals in. That’s why I’m in net,” Markstrom said “It’s always fun to play against the big boys, but it’s never fun to lose. I want to win. We didn’t do that”

Jonathan Huberdeau looked very good in his second preseason game. Even though the score sheet might not show it he had a lot of good chances and set up some sweet passes that just missed, or got blocked at the last second. He could have easily had two or three assists had the wingers he was playing with been able to convert his passe

It was really cool to see what the Lightning are doing with The St. Pete Times Forum, which was ranked the 4th busiest arena in the United States. A $35,000,000 renovation is scheduled to be completed before the 2011-2012 season begins. The renovation will include a rebuilt grand plaza entrance, elimination of 2 lower level suites in each corner (8 of current 28 suites) leaving views from the concourse area to the playing area, renovation of each suite, elimination of sections 323 and 324 on the terrace level (574 seats) for a bar and stage area that will feature a new pipe organ, more concessions areas on the terrace level, an 11,000-sq ft, outdoor deck and party area overlooking outside plaza and facing the downtown skyline, new climate controls that improve both the ice surface and spectator comfort, new lighting, all new padded seats, resurfaced and redecorated concourse, combining icons and medallions restaurants into one venue, and updated restrooms. AND IT LOOKS AWESOME….the Lightning are really raising the bar for the FAN experience. The St. Pete Times Forum was Florida’s largest arena until BankAtlantic Center  opened in Sunrise.

I’m looking forward to game back in Sunrise tonight!!!

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