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Hedman lifts Lightning past Panthers with OT goal

by Corey Long

TAMPA Victor Hedman scored on a breakaway 1:11 into overtime to give the Tampa Bay Lightning a 3-2 win against the Florida Panthers in the season opener for each team.

Hedman scored on a 4-on-3 power play after Panthers forward Scottie Upshall was called for goalie interference at the end of regulation.

Lightning goalie Ben Bishop caught the Panthers on a line change and sent a pass up the boards to Hedman. The defenseman fired a wrist shot over Florida goalie Roberto Luongo’s shoulder on a breakaway for the win.

“Ben made a great play and he’s always been good with the puck,” Hedman said. “We didn’t play our best game tonight, but we’re happy to get it out of the way and really happy to get the two points tonight.”

The Lightning scored all three of their goals on the power play and killed each of the Panthers’ power-play opportunities.

“Special teams were the difference tonight,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “And we needed it to be that way because we didn’t generate many opportunities when it was 5-on-5.

“Hedman’s shot in overtime was very good. He isn’t necessarily known for his shot, but he showed that he can snap it. He definitely is an upper-echelon defenseman in this league and he’s continuing to take steps forward to improve his game.”

Hedman was a big part of the Lightning’s power-play success Thursday; he also had an assist on forward Ryan Callahan’s goal that gave Tampa Bay a 2-1 lead at 7:17 of the third period. With the Lightning skating 5-on-3, Callahan was camped by the net when he took the rebound of a shot by Valtteri Filppula and pushed it past Luongo.

“These are the games we have to win, and we have the character on the team to do it,” Callahan said. ”There’s going to be a lot of one-goal games and overtime games and the good teams figure out how to win those close games.”

Florida tied the game 2-2 behind some strong work down low from forward Jonathan Huberdeau.

Huberdeau fired a wrist shot that deflected off Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas' stick, but regained control of the loose puck and sent a second shot past Bishop, who was sliding in the other direction, with 10:44 left in the third.

“We came here hoping to get two points and we ended up with one,” Florida coach Gerard Gallant said. “You can’t take the number of penalties we took tonight against those guys. Still, I liked the way we played and we’re going continue to play like this moving forward.

After being outshot 8-3 in the first period, Florida took a 1-0 lead at 5:03 of the second when defenseman Erik Gunbranson’s long slap shot went under Bishop’s glove and into the back of the net.

Florida’s lead didn't last long. Panthers forward Sean Bergenheim was called for interference less than a minute after Gudbranson's goal, and the Lightning tied the game when Tyler Johnson’s one-timer beat Luongo.

“We played hard, but we didn’t get the calls tonight,” Upshall said. “It was 6-1 in penalties and we put Roberto in some tough situations.”

Luongo proved he would be tough to score on in the first five minutes of the game when he withstood waves of traffic in front of him. The Lightning's best chance of the period came when defenseman Jason Garrison controlled of a loose puck and had a clear path from the slot, but Garrison's slap shot was stopped and gathered by Luongo.

“When he’s on his game, he’s one of the toughest goalies in the League,” Hedman said of Luongo. “We had to change our approach after the first period and work the puck around a little more to find success.”

Luongo finished with 29 saves.

“I thought we came here and battled hard and it’s a tough way to lose a game,” Luongo said. “We gave them too many opportunities, and they have too much talent not to take advantage of those power plays.”

Bishop made 19 saves and Filppula had two assists for the Lightning.

Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad, the first pick in the 2014 NHL Draft, had an assist on Huberdeau’s goal.

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