An announced crowd of 10,781 watched the Tampa Bay Lightning play their first game at Orlando's Amway Center since the 2013 preseason.
They were treated to a Lightning offensive explosion and the team's most complete game of the exhibition schedule.
Tampa Bay never trailed in a 6-2 victory over the Florida Panthers. The Lightning led 2-1 after the first period, 3-1 after two and pulled away in the third. Mathieu Joseph scored two goals - both in the third period - and added a first-period assist to lead the Bolts for scoring. Brayden Point and Alex Killorn each tallied a pair of assists. Yanni Gourde, Victor Hedman and Anthony Cirelli all had a goal and an assist. And Louis Domingue stopped 36-of-38 saves to pick up his second victory in as many starts this preseason.
The fans inside the Amway Center certainly left Thursday's game impressed with Tampa Bay's performance.
The Lightning were impressed with the fans too.
"It was actually an awesome turnout," Point said. "There were a ton of people here it seemed like."
1. STARTING STRONG
The first five minutes of Thursday's game were probably the best five-minute stretch the Lightning have played so far this preseason.
From the opening puck drop, the Bolts were flying. Passes hit the recipient in stride, allowing the Lightning to get their speed game going and put plenty of stress on Florida goalie Roberto Luongo.
At the game's 4:50 mark, the Lightning were rewarded when Brayden Point, near the right post, spotted Victor Hedman streak down into the left circle and fed him with another tape-to-tape pass. Hedman hammered the puck into the back of the net, giving the Lightning a 1-0 lead.
"I liked the speed of the game out there," Joseph said. "You've got to be consistent out there. Every shift's important. Every time you step on the ice, you want to do the right thing and execute."
Hedman later had a hand in Tampa Bay's second goal, ripping a shot from the blue line that Anthony Cirelli tipped in the slot past Luongo to regain the lead for the Bolts 2-1 with 6.5 seconds remaining in the first period.
The Bolts used that quick start to take control of the game and held it pretty much throughout the remainder of the game.
2. DOMINANT DOMINGUE
If Louis Domingue is going to be asked to shoulder more of the workload in Tampa Bay's net this season, his preseason performances should be plenty encouraging.
Domingue got the Lightning their first preseason victory when he made 38-of-39 saves at Nashville in a 5-1 rout.
Domingue's second start Thursday in Orlando was just as dominant. The Lightning netminder was poised under pressure, in complete control of his crease and turned aside 35 of Florida's 37 shots to improve to 2-0-0 this preseason.
One sequence showcased just how dialed in Domingue was against the Panthers. On one of Florida's few odd-man rushes, the Panthers dropped a pass back into the slot for a wide-open Denis Malgin.
Malgin had a clear path for his one-timer. Domingue stood firm, however, gloving the shot and holding it to prevent a rebound, just one of many impressive saves for the 26 year old.
"He's played really well in the couple games that he's been able to play, especially his puck-handling ability's been exceptional," Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. "But he was making the big saves for us when we needed. It was kind of a back-and-forth game, and when it was fairly close, he made some big saves for us and that's what you need your goalie to do and he's been really good."
Domingue was particularly effective using his blocker to punch shots away and keep the rebound well away from goal to prevent a second attempt. And when the Panthers threatened to tie the game in the third period on a power play, Domingue was a wall in net, and the Bolts scored soon after, the failed power play for the Cats shifting the momentum back in favor of the Bolts.
3. SHUTTING THE DOOR
Following a 3-2 loss to Florida on Tuesday, a game in which the Lightning lead 2-0 after two periods but allowed three-consecutive goals in the third, Cooper said his squad did everything they needed to do through the first 35 minutes to win a game and did none of those things in the final period.
At Thursday's morning skate, Yanni Gourde said the focus for the game later that night was on playing a full 60 minutes.
And aside from a slight hiccup at the beginning of the third period, the Bolts did just that.
Tampa Bay led 3-1 after two periods and controlled much of the action through the first 40 minutes. Mikhail Sergachev took an early third-period penalty, though, and the Panthers converted, Frank Vatrano finding a loose puck off a rebound and cutting the Lightning lead to a single goal.
The Panthers continued to pressure. For a couple minutes, it seemed the same fate might befall the Lightning. Florida earned another power play with a chance to tie.
But that's when the Bolts' penalty kill clamped down and kept the Panthers from getting a good look at the net. And when they did get an opportunity, Domingue was there to shut it down. Moments later, Mathieu Joseph converted a power play with a rebound goal to push the Lightning lead back to two goals.
"I think we had maybe a little bit of up-and-down start of the third," Joseph said. "That goal, we had to respond pretty well and I think our penalty kill did a good job too after that goal and then we got momentum from it and we were able to pull it off. I think it was a great job by everyone in the third to respond better than the last game we played against these guys."
Alexander Volkov extended the Lightning lead to 5-2 at 11:16 of the third and Joseph scored again with less than five minutes remaining for the 6-2 final and a runaway victory for the Bolts.