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Stamkos gets assist in Lightning win against Panthers

Back from knee injury, helps break third-period tie in season opener

by Corey Long / NHL.com Correspondent

TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos assisted on the tiebreaking goal by Vladislav Namestnikov, and the Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Florida Panthers 5-3 at Amalie Arena in the season opener for each team Friday.

Ondrej Palat scored twice, and Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov scored for Tampa Bay, which has won its past six home openers and is 16-7-0 with two ties in its 25 season openers.

 

[WATCH: All Panthers vs. Lightning highlights]

 

Namestnikov scored 59 seconds into the third period to give the Lightning a 3-2 lead. Stamkos, who returned from a knee injury to play his first NHL regular-season game since Nov. 15, took a pass from Alex Killorn, held the puck at the left circle and fed Namestnikov at the near post for the tip in.

"I knew there was a little bit of a breakdown in their coverage," Stamkos said. "As soon as [Killorn] got it in the slot, I took a peek and saw [Namestnikov] back door. I was either going to shoot it right away, but it wasn't quite in the wheelhouse, so I knew I had [Namestnikov] as a second option."

Palat gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead on a backhand that beat Panthers goalie Roberto Luongo through the five-hole at 6:33 of the first period. Palat scored an empty-net goal with 14 seconds remaining in the third period.

Video: FLA@TBL: Palat nails five-hole goal to open scoring

Connor Brickley, Mark Pysyk and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for Florida in the debut of coach Bob Boughner. The Panthers are 5-1-1 in their past seven season openers.

Kucherov made it 4-2 at 6:38 of the third period with an unassisted goal that beat Luongo to the left corner.

Florida got within 4-3 at 14:30 when Huberdeau scored on a tip with Evgenii Dadonov and Keith Yandle getting the assists.

"We weren't able to find the one or two [goals] that we needed," Yandle said. "But I liked the way that we played. I liked the way we competed. It was a good step. You can't win all of them, but you take a lot of good things from this game."

The Panthers tied the game with back-to-back goals in the second period. Florida generated a turnover at the blue line, and Alex Petrovic found Brickley uncovered in front of the net for the goal that made it 2-1 at 12:21.

Video: FLA@TBL: Namestnikov sends it home on the power-play

Pysyk made it 2-2 at 17:47; he got possession of the puck during a scrum in front of the net and beat Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy with a backhand.

Point scored an unassisted goal 25 seconds into the second period to make it 2-0. He also had two assists. The line of Palat, Point and Yanni Gourde were plus-5 with five points.

"They were our best line," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Playing against an exceptional line all night. They carried us tonight."

Vasilevskiy made 33 saves for the Lightning; Luongo made 20 for the Panthers.

Video: FLA@TBL: Pysyk scores off rebound to tie game

 

Goal of the game

Kucherov's goal was a wrist shot through traffic that beat Luongo top shelf.

Video: FLA@TBL: Kucherov sends a wrist shot through traffic

 

Save of the game

Vasilevskiy's most important save came with 45 seconds remaining in the game when he stopped Dadonov in front of the net with his pad.

Video: FLA@TLB: Vasilevskiy makes a kick save to rob Dadonov

 

Highlight of the game

Point's goal came from a sharp angle after Yandle deflected a centering pass. Point snuck a wrist shot past Luongo in the corner.

"That line was fantastic," Stamkos said. "I don't think I need to go into detail. I think it was pretty evident watching the game."

Video: FLA@TBL: Point beats Luongo with sneaky wrist shot

 

They said it

"It ended up being a power-play goal that kind of broke our back. But I liked our game. I liked what I've saw from the details. Execution off of face-offs. Some of our breakouts were pretty clean. There were a lot of things that were good out there. We just have to get back to work and keep perfecting it." -- Panthers coach Bob Boughner

 

"It was great. I don't want to make a habit of making too big of a deal coming back from injuries, so hopefully that's it. But these fans are amazing and they know how special they are to us." -- Lightning center Steven Stamkos on the ovation he received in pregame introductions

 

Need to know

Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman was plus-4. ... Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad had eight shot attempts but six were blocked. ... Defenseman Dan Girardi had four hits and six blocked shots in his Lightning debut.

 

What's next

Panthers: Host the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday (7 p.m., FS-F, SUN, NHL.TV)

Lightning: At the Florida Panthers on Saturday (7 p.m., FS-F, SUN, NHL.TV)

 

Video: Palat, Point power Lightning to 5-3 win in opener

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