After dropping their first game of the season, the Florida Panthers were back in front of their home crowd, taking on the Lightning once again.
The Florida Panthers, like last game, came flying out of the gates to start. The only difference in this outing was the home crowd, which the Panthers had on their side.
Early on, forward Aleksander Barkov entered his way into the Lightning’s zone and beautifully fed Evgenii Dadonov on the other side. Dadonov took the pass, walked in with an entirely open side to shoot at, but fired it up and out of play.
The Cats created some other small chances later on, but Andrei Vasilevskiy was there to deny them all.
At the same time, the Bolts created some good looks for themselves, but like Vasilevskiy, Bobrovsky stood tall to keep the score tied at zero.
Arguably the best chance of the period came on a three-on-two, where Jayce Hawryluk received a pass with an open cage to shoot at, but just shot over the net.
Neither team could break the deadlock after twenty minutes, with both sides heading straight to the locker room with zero on the scoreboard.
Early in the second, Tampa came out hungry, pushing down the ice in numbers. Cernak, apart of an odd-man rush down the ice, was fed the puck in the slot, but was beautifully denied by the sprawling Bobrovsky.
The Lightning, shortly after, were called for too many men on the ice, sending the Cats to their first power play of the game. Unfortunately, the Panthers couldn’t set up, nor make anything from the opportunity.
However, it wasn’t long after the initial power play that they would be heading right back to the man advantage. On this one, though, the Panthers cashed in.
As Jonathan Huberdeau was circling his way around the net, he suddenly put the brakes on and fed Hoffman with a slick, one-time pass. In the wheelhouse, Hoffman took the puck to his stick and roofed it top-shelf to give the Cats the lead.
The Panthers continued pressing, while the Lightning continued playing undisciplined. Before you knew it, Florida was back on the power play – their third of the game – and wasted no time with it.
Again, it was Jonathan Huberdeau setting up Hoffman in his preferred spot, sniping a shot in similar fashion past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Think Florida was done? Think again! The Panthers continued throwing everything they had at the Lightning, which they were rewarded for.
After forty minutes of play, the righteous team was heading to the dressing room with a well-deserved lead.
As soon as the third kicked-off, the Cats regained their three-goal cushion. Like the first two, Mike Hoffman tipped Aaron Ekblad’s point shot to record his second career hat trick to date. His hat trick marked the first-ever to be recorded in a Panthers home opener.
As the game progressed, so did the physicality. Both sides were getting chippy and exchanging push, shoves, and a few punches in result.
But it was the Lightning who would find the next to goals through Steven Stamkos and Matthieu Joseph, respectively. The thought of a comeback was real, and the entire crowd went silence once their 4-1 lead was narrowed down to one (4-3).
While Tampa continued pressing and throwing everything at Bobrovsky, the Russian netminder stood tall and locked down the fort.
Bobrovsky, while positioned at the other side of the net, pushed himself over to make the sprawling glove save on Kucherov, preserving the Panthers’ one-goal lead.
The Cats would just hang on to their lead, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-3. While sitting back for portions of the third, the Panthers were still the more dominant team throughout this sixty-minute contest.
But, giving credit where credit is due, it was Sergei Bobrovsky who played a vital role in this crucial win.
Your Panthers are back in action on Tuesday, October. 8 at 7 P.M. against the Carolina Hurricanes to face their former netminder, James Reimer.