Florida Panthers End Preseason with a Loss; Fall to Tampa 3-2

The Tampa Bay Lightning's Mathieu Joseph (7) takes the puck from falling Florida Panthers player Mike Hoffman (68) in an exhibition game at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images)
The Tampa Bay Lightning's Mathieu Joseph (7) takes the puck from falling Florida Panthers player Mike Hoffman (68) in an exhibition game at the Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., on Thursday, Sept. 27, 2018. (Stephen M. Dowell/Orlando Sentinel/TNS via Getty Images) /

After getting thumped the other night, the Florida Panthers were heading into the BB&T Center, ready to square off against Tampa Bay in their last preseason outing.

For precautionary reasons, both Aaron Eklad and Micheal Haley sat out of last night’s match, ensuring that the two would be ready come opening night on Saturday, October. 6.

The Panthers began the first on a strong note, pinning the Lightning in their own end for quite some time. After suffering a 6-2 defeat the other night, the Cats wanted to finish off the preseason in high fashion.

Around the halfway mark in the first, Jonathan Huberdeau put the Panthers on the board first. Coming down on Andrei Vasilevskiy, Huberdeau’s backhanded was initially stopped by the Russian netminder, but after poking a few times at his pads, the puck trickled through and crossed the goal line.

Shortly after, Cory Conacher leveled the score at one apiece. Despite their strong efforts throughout the majority of the first, the Cats couldn’t preserve their one-goal lead. After a period of play, both teams would head into the locker room with a goal by their name.

To start the second, it was announced that defensemen Keith Yandle and Bogdan Kiselevich would not return to tonight’s game, leaving the Panthers with four defensemen on their bench.

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Even with a shortage of D at their disposal, the Cats continued to claw. Their hard work and perseverance were rewarded, as Mike Hoffman sniped his first preseason goal with Florida, to regain his side’s lead.

Florida was inches away of netting a third. Vasilevskiy’s clearance went straight to Jonathan Huberdeau, who stumbled in his tracks while intercepting Vasilevskiy’s pass, ultimately failing to fully connect on his shot.

But, the moment that saved the Panthers from starting from scratch, was when Luongo stretched his arm and robbed Ondrej Palat from in close.

Luongo’s highlight of the night save is what preserved his side’s lead, taking them into the dressing room with a one-goal lead after two periods of play. Suddenly, the Cats were just 20 minutes away from ending the exhibition off with a win.

Unfortunately, Tampa Bay had other plans, as Mathieu Joseph found the back of the net in the opening six minutes, bringing the game back to a tie.

All of a sudden, the momentum suddenly shifted in Tampa’s direction, leading them to multiple scoring opportunities. The Bolts would cash in on one of their multitude of chances, grabbing their first lead of the hockey game.

Mikhail Sergachev wound up from above the circle and fed J.T. Miller a pass in front. Miller put his stick out and redirected Sergachev’s pass, scoring the game-winning goal.

The Panthers fought back hard in the game’s final five minutes, but the hard fight just wasn’t enough. After outshooting the Lightning 33-26, the Panthers would drop their second game in a row to their in-state rival.

Who Stood Out?

With a goal by his name, it would be pretty silly of me not to name him a standout. Apart from his goal, Huberdeau was seen across the ice working his tail off.

Whether it was doing the dirty work around the boards or setting up his teammates, Huberdeau was a busy beaver having a productive night. His five shots on goal (SOG) was a team-high by the end of the game.

Wearing the ‘C’ for the first time in a game, Sir Aleksander Barkov put on a show yet again. With an assist added to his name, Barkov was all over the ice causing havoc in the Lightning’s end. His display of creating something out of nothing is what made him a standout for me.

Scoring his first goal of the preseason with his new team, Mike Hoffman finally found the back of the net and recorded a total of two points in result. With an assist to go along with his goal, Hoffman saw a lot of the puck on his stick. With a little more luck and patience, Hoffman will start to bag goals left and right.

Finally, while this individual ended the night with zero points, his hunger and overall play is what won me over. I’m talking about assistant captain and 2017 all-star Vincent Trocheck.

Despite a quiet night in terms of offensive production, Trocheck stuck to his guns. Finishing the game with four SOG, Cousin Vinnie was a little unlucky not to find the back of the net. Creating chances in front of goal for his linemates is what counts, and that’s exactly what the 25-year-old did.

Who Disappointed?

While he didn’t completely disappoint, you’d expect a little more out of this individual. I’m talking about Evgeni Dadonov who tallied zero points and just two shots on net.

For those who watched last night’s game, you saw a bit of action from Dadonov in the first, but throughout the second and third, his game replicated a ghost. Usually, Dadonov is always skating around and creating something, but tonight just wasn’t his night.

Have no fear, though, as it’s only preseason and Dadonov (like others) deserve an off game every now and then. Expect the Russian speedster to show off his wheels come opening night next Saturday.

These next two defensemen are two players who really performed poorly last night. I’m pointing to Mark Pysyk and Alex Petrovic.

The two just couldn’t seem to stay in position and were often caught scrambling around the zone throughout much of the game. I can give them a pass seeing they were logging heavy minutes and covering for the absence of Yandle and Kiselevich, but come regular season, the two will have to figure out their games.

Closing Remarks

Finishing off 3-4 in preseason isn’t the end of the world – because after all – it’s preseason we’re talking about!

The games mean absolutely nothing, and what matters most is that we gave the players looking from the outside in a chance at competing for a roster spot. Exhibition is all about experimenting with what you have in your minor system, and that’s what the Cats did fielding different rosters throughout these past seven games.

There are still some areas of concern like the back end that need attending to, which bench boss Bob Boughner will have the opportunity of tweaking throughout the entire week that the Panthers have off.

Next. The Panthers Will Finish Third in the Atlantic Division. dark

Be sure to catch the Florida Panthers’ opening night game on Saturday, October. 20 @ 7 P.M. against the Tampa Bay Lightning!