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5 Takeaways: Bobrovsky Perfect as Panthers Shut Out Lightning

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

9/28/19 Post Game Interviews

9/28/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Vincent Trocheck and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

  • 01:10 •

TAMPA - The Florida Panthers are heading into the regular season on a high note.

In their final tune-up of the preseason, Sergei Bobrovsky stopped all 26 shots he faced, and Vincent Trocheck scored the lone goal in the skills competition to lead the Panthers to a 1-0 shootout win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday night at AMALIE Arena.

"It's good to get the wins rolling in and know what it feels like to have some confidence and win some games before the season starts," Trocheck said. "Everybody's really excited preseason's over, camp's over, and it's time to start the regular season. We've been waiting for this."

With both reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy and Bobrovsky, a two-time Vezina winner himself, standing on their heads, the red light gathered dust throughout tonight's game.

When neither goalie gave way in either regulation or overtime, a shootout was necessary.

In Round 1 of the skills competition, Trocheck scored the only goal the Panthers would need, sending a quick wrist shot on net that trickled off Vasilevskiy's pads and across the goal line.

"He got a piece of it," Trocheck said. "He had good positioning on it. I didn't have a whole lot." Prior to his attempt, Trocheck turned to Bobrovsky for what he expected would be sage advice. "He just said 'He's a good goalie, so try to score,'" Trocheck chuckled.

At the other end of the ice, Bobrovsky stopped all three Lightning shooters -- Kevin Shattenkirk, Anthony Cirelli and Mikhail Sergachev - to lock in both his shutout and a 1-0 win for the Cats.

"It was good to have that game, for sure," Bobrovsky said. "Obviously the guys did a great job in the D-zone. They allowed me to see the puck. [They made] good blocks. It was a good game."

Panthers coach Joel Quenneville described Bobrovsky's performance as "very sharp."

"He was great," Quenneville said of Bobrovsky's big night in net. "I thought he made several key saves. He was sharp. He was following the puck - it was sticking to him a little bit. I just like the way he anticipated and the way he prepared all of camp and how he's progressed."

Here are five takeaways from Saturday's win in Tampa…

1. A BUSY FIRST

The first period came and went without a goal, but that doesn't mean it wasn't exciting.

Throughout the first 20 minutes, each team had more than a few good chances to break the ice. The Panthers were sent to a pair of power plays, but saw their best looks either sail just wide or turned away by Vasilevskiy. Likewise, Bobrovsky stopped every attempt the Bolts could muster.

In the end, Florida held a 15-9 shot advantage heading into the first intermission.

"It was a tight game," Quenneville said. "I thought both teams worked hard. Looking at camp, I thought it was probably the most pace to a game that we've seen."

The tone of the first period was also incredibly physical, as the two teams combined for 20 total hits (11 for Tampa and nine for Florida). The biggest body check came from defenseman Riley Stillman, who upended Lightning forward Cedric Paquette along the boards in the neutral zone.

2. BOB COMES UP BIG

Bobrovsky looked simply unbeatable tonight.

Playing his second full game of the preseason, the 31-year-old was on his game from the start. He tracked the puck well, limited his rebounds and had more than a few big saves. Twice, he also got the best of the league's reigning Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov.

The first stop came late in the second period, when Kucherov skated into the zone on a 2-on-1 break. Opting to keep the puck himself, Bobrovsky gobbled up his would-be goal. The second stop came in the third, when Bobrovsky stoned Kucherov on a point-blank shot from the slot.

"I only face what's there," Bobrovsky said of the different looks he saw during the game. "It's definitely good to have the overtime, the shootout and everything like that. Tampa's a good team. We're going to face them a lot. Next game is a huge game. Now, we start to play for real."

Entering his first season with the Panthers after joining the club on a seven-year deal during free agency, Bobrovsky registered a 37-24-1 record with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and an NHL-best nine shutouts with Columbus during the 2018-19 campaign.

"I just play my game," Bobrovsky said. "My game doesn't really change."

3. GRECO GETS THE CALL

Anthony Greco earned a few extra frequent-flyer miles today.

Sent down to the AHL on Thursday, the 25-year-old winger was suddenly called back up to the big club on Saturday. Arriving in time for puck drop, he saw 12:35 of ice time in Tampa Bay.

"He did a good job," Quenneville. "He had a really good camp for us."

Heading into his fourth season with the organization, Greco made his NHL debut and played one game with the Panthers in 2018-19. He also led the team's AHL affiliate, the Springfield Thunderbirds, in scoring with AHL career-bests in goals (30), assists (29) and points (59).

Prior to being cut, Greco had three goals and one assist in four games.

"We appreciate what he can bring us at some point," Quenneville said.

4. HITS ON HITS

As previously mentioned in the first takeaway, the rink was rife with intensity all night long.

In the end, the Lightning and Panthers finished the game with 25 hits apiece. They also shared in penalties for roughing and unsportsmanlike conduct. Dominic Toninato led Florida with five hits, MacKenzie Weegar chipped in four and two other players each dished out a pair.

"The whole intrastate rival thing is actually starting to become a thing," Trocheck said, cracking a big smile. "It's a lot of fun. It's fun to be a part of that. They've got a physical team. We've got a physical team. When we meet, it's going to get physical."

Speaking of that next meeting…

5. PLAYING FOR POINTS

With the preseason now in the rearview, it's time to start playing for some real points.

The Panthers will open their 2019-20 regular season in Tampa Bay on Thursday, Oct. 3 -- their fourth straight game against the Lightning, but the first to count in the standings. Two days after that, the cross-state rivals will battle again in Florida's home opener on Saturday, Oct. 5 at BB&T Center.

"I can't wait for opening night," Trocheck said. "I'm not going to be able to sleep until then."

While Trocheck doesn't think he'll be able to sleep, Bobrovsky is looking forward to a little rest.

"We've got a few days," he said. "I'm looking forward to having a day off now. Having a rest, resetting, refocusing and coming back to work on Monday."

For the Panthers, the work is only just beginning.

The 82-game grind toward the playoffs starts next week.

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