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Bolts comeback falls short vs. Panthers

Tampa Bay splits the home-and-home against Florida to begin the season

by Jacob Lynn /

A three-minute stretch in the second period proved to be the Lightning's undoing on Saturday night in South Florida.

Aided by a pair of back-to-back power plays, the Panthers scored three times in less than 180 seconds to build a healthy lead and rode that momentum to an 4-3 victory over the Bolts.

With the Lightning killing a penalty midway through the period, Mike Hoffman settled into a soft spot in the offensive zone and wired a feed from Jonathan Huberdeau past Andrei Vasilevskiy to open the scoring.

Just 86 seconds later, Hoffman doubled Florida's lead. A large ricochet off the boards behind Vasilevskiy left the Lightning coverage scrambling and allowed Hoffman to go unmarked at the right circle and score.

Noal Acciari then finished the sequence with his first goal for the Panthers. After laying a big hit on Kevin Shattenkirk to free himself up in front of the net, Acciari beat Vasilevskiy with a backhand shot from in close.

The Bolts managed to get on the board late in the period with Gemel Smith registering his first goal for Tampa Bay. A spinning Luke Witkowski managed to get the puck past Sergei Bobrovsky and Smith tapped it over the line.

Video: TBL@FLA: Smith taps home rolling puck in the crease

Hoffman finished off his hat trick 17 seconds into the third period, deflecting home a point shot from Aaron Ekblad.

Down 4-1, the Lightning scored twice to pull within a goal and nearly tied the game with a strong push down the stretch.  

Steven Stamkos notched his first goal of the year less than seven minutes into the period, scoring on a one-timer from the circle set up by Victor Hedman.

Mathieu Joseph then finished off a beautiful passing play to make it 4-3 with five minutes remaining in regulation. Carter Verhaeghe picked up the secondary assist on the goal to record his first NHL point in his second career game.

That would be as close as the Bolts would get, however, as Bobrovsky made some key saves down the stretch to preserve the win for the Panthers. Pat Maroon had one of the best looks with less than a minute to play but Bobrovsky and a host of Panthers that crashed the crease managed to keep the Bolts from equalizing.

Where the Lightning penalty kill was perfect in Thursday's victory over the Panthers, it struggled on Saturday. Florida converted on two of its three opportunities with a man advantage.

The Lightning are back in action at 5 p.m. on Sunday evening in Raleigh vs. the Hurricanes.

Scoring Summary
1st Period
No Scoring

2nd Period
FLA | 9:39 Mike Hoffman (2) - Jonathan Huberdeau, Keith Yandle - PPG
FLA | 11:05 Mike Hoffman (3) - Jonathan Huberdeau, Keith Yandle - PPG
FLA | 12:32 Noel Acciari (1) - Colton Sceviour, Dryden Hunt
TBL | 16:23 Gemel Smith (1) - Luke Witkowski, Pat Maroon

3rd Period
FLA | 0:17 Mike Hoffman (4) - Aaron Ekblad, Brett Connolly
TBL | 6:40 Steven Stamkos (1) - Victor Hedman, Kevin Shattenkirk
TBL | 15:41 Mathieu Joseph (1) - Yanni Gourde, Carter Verhaeghe

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