The game was closer than that, however, as the entire squad put in their best effort of the tournament and skated hard and aggressively all game long.
Tampa Bay sent Pat Nagle back out on the ice to start his second game in goal, and he showed improvement over his previous appearance when he was raked by the Nashville Predators for 7 goals.
Nagle made 12 saves on 14 shots before he gave way to Jaroslav Janus for the second half of the game.
He allowed goals to Jonathan Hazen, who opened the scoring at 8:14 off a goal-mouth scramble while Florida was on a power play, and John McFarland from the slot.
The penalty box was busy all through the game, but especially in period 1, when 8 minor penalties were called, 5 going to the Panther side while the Lightning collected the balance.
Florida opened the scoring in period 2, again on a power play goal, stretching their lead to 3-0, before Tampa Bay got on the scoreboard when Tyler Johnson, who had an impressive tournament along with his linemates Brent Connolly and Cory Conacher, stole the puck from the Panther defender and beat Florida goaltender Brian Foster.
That would prove to be the Lightning’s only score of the contest, although Florida had a goal awarded to them when Tampa Bay defenseman Mark Barberio pulled down Panther forward Josh Birkholz from behind as he broke in alone on the empty Lightning net.
The game ended in typical Lightning-Panther style as Barberio and Erick Selleck of Florida engaged in a spirited battle in front of the Lightning bench. Barberio drew a five-minute fighting major while Selleck also earned an instigator call along with his fighting major.
Impressive players for the Lightning include Vladislav Namestnikov, who demonstrated his skating speed and Cory Conacher, Tyler Johnson and Brett Connolly.
Special Advisor Tom Kurvers especially praised the 5-foot-8 Conacher, saying, “He (Conacher) has some things that small men need in order to play in the NHL. He has speed, puck skill, hockey sense and he has determination.
Brett Connolly drew praise from Jon Cooper, Norfolk Admiral Coach, who was behind the bench for all three tournament games.
“He’s got phenomenal talent,” Cooper said. “I thought day in and day out he was our best player at the tournament, and you hope that from your first round pick and he delivered.”
The Lightning continued their mastery in the exhibition shootout that followed each game. Tonight, Tampa Bay beat the Panthers, 2-1, with scores by Gabriel Desjardins and Adam Janosik.