In Thursday's regular season opener, it was a combination of Lightning veterans and newcomers that led Tampa Bay to a 5-2 victory over the Panthers.
Both Kevin Shattenkirk and Pat Maroon scored in their Bolts debuts, while stalwarts Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat each found the back of the net in the victory.
The Lightning struck first, taking advantage of an extended delayed penalty sequence. With Andrei Vasilevskiy at the bench for an extra attacker, the Bolts cycled the puck around the offensive zone with the play culminating in a one-timed shot from Nikita Kucherov that beat Florida goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky.
Video: FLA@TBL: Kucherov hammers home Sergachev's nice dish
Florida swung momentum in their favor early in the second period, equalizing on a goal from Mike Hoffman less than three minutes in. Hoffman slipped unmarked into the slot and fired home a shot after a feed from Vincent Trocheck below the goal line.
A pair of defensive breakdowns immediately following Hoffman's goal gave the Panthers an excellent chance to take the lead.
Vasilevskiy was called upon to make saves on a partial breakaway and then a 2-on-0 opportunity to keep the game tied.
Tampa Bay retook the lead midway through the period. Playing in his first game with the Bolts, Shattenkirk scored on a shot from the point that beat Bobrovsky through a screen.
The Bolts held the lead until the Panthers tied the game on a shorthanded goal from Trocheck halfway through the third period. A Tyler Johnson pass got deflected at center ice, giving Aaron Ekblad the chance to spring Trocheck in alone on Vasilevskiy.
Florida's lead wouldn't last long, however.
With the Lightning still on the same power play 45 seconds later, Ondrej Palat scored the eventual game-winner on a rebound to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 advantage. Alex Killorn deflected the initial shot making it difficult for Bobrovsky to control the rebound and opening up the opportunity for Palat to give Tampa Bay the lead.
An insurance marker from Pat Maroon four minutes later would put the game away for Tampa Bay. After a mad scramble in front of the Florida net, Victor Hedman took a shot that bounced off the boards behind Bobrovsky and right to Maroon who chipped it over the goal line.
Erik Cernak added an empty net goal with less than a minute to play to give the Lightning a three-goal lead.
Video: FLA@TBL: Vasilevskiy sprawls to stuff Dadonov
Kucherov and Vasilevskiy, the defending Hart and Vezina Trophy winners, picked up right where they left off last season. Kucherov added a secondary assist on Maroon's goal in addition to his own tally and Vasilevskiy turned aside 35 of the 37 shots the Panthers threw his way.
With the shorthanded goal as the lone hiccup, Tampa Bay's special teams were solid in the opener. The Bolts went 1-for-4 with a man advantage and killed off all four Florida power play opportunities.
The Bolts and Cats will immediately get another look at one another, as Tampa Bay travels to Sunrise on Saturday night to face the Panthers in their home opener.
TBL | 6:39 Nikita Kucherov (1) - Mikhail Sergachev, Mathieu Joseph
FLA | 2:35 Mike Hoffman (1) - Vincent Trocheck, Brett Connolly
TBL | 10:28 Kevin Shattenkirk (1) - Mikhail Sergachev, Alex Killorn
FLA | 8:49 Vincent Trocheck (1) - Aaron Ekblad - SHG
TBL | 9:34 Ondrej Palat (1) - Alex Killorn, Mikhail Sergachev - PPG
TBL | 13:51 Pat Maroon (1) - Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov
TBL | 19:14 Erik Cernak (1) - Anthony Cirelli - EN