The Tampa Bay Lightning prospects opened up the 2011 Florida Rookie Tournament tonight with a tough 4-2 loss to the Florida Panther rookies at the Saveology Iceplex in Coral Springs.
The Panthers, perhaps a bit more comfortable because the tournament was taking place on their home practice ice, came out roaring in the opening period, but missed the Lightning net on several good scoring chances. Florida eventually converted and opened the scoring at 15:20 when center Scott Timmins one-timed a pass to beat Lightning goaltender Jaroslav Janus.
The Panthers outshot Tampa Bay 10-6 for the period, and the score could have tilted further in their favor except Janus came up big to foil two Florida breakaways.
Leaving their first period jitters behind, the Lightning evened the score at 1-1 when, just 119 seconds after the second period began, Lightning forward Cory Conacher pushed the puck behind Panther goalie Jacob Markstrom off a scramble in front of the crease. The goal was unassisted.
Florida bounced back into the lead at 6:49 when, with Vladislav Namestnikov in the penalty box for high sticking, Jonathan Huberdeau carried the puck behind the Lightning net, swung out in front of the crease and beat Janus for a power play goal.
The Panthers added a short-handed score by forward John McFarland before Lightning forward Ondrej Palat ended the second period scoring by converting a pass from defenseman Mark Barberio with just over two minutes remaining to close the scoring gap to 3-2.
Florida connected on the only goal in the final period, a snapshot by Corey Durocher at the 3:39 mark.
Although Tampa Bay was outscored 4-2 and outshot 39-19, Coach Guy Boucher, an interested spectator while Jon Cooper, coach of the American Hockey League Norfolk Admirals ran the bench, was not very concerned.
"Really hard to tell anything from the first game," Boucher said. “The first game I've always said is the jitters game. And it’s holding true. Lots of 2-on-1s, it is the most hectic of all the games. You can learn more from the next couple of games. No decisions are made on this game."
Lightning first round (29th overall) draft pick in 2009, Carter Ashton, and Panther first round selection (3rd overall) in 2010 engaged in a spirited battle with just over 90 seconds to play. Each drew a five-minute major penalty for fighting…Tampa Bay tough-guy Radko Gudas was called for two penalties and delivered a crunching open-ice hit on Panther forward Quinton Howden in the first period…former Lightning Assistant Coach and former Atlanta Head Coach Craig Ramsay has caught on with the Panthers as Assistant Coach.