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5 Takeaways: Greco Scores Twice, Panthers Shut Out Stars in Tulsa

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

9/21/19 Post Game Interviews

9/21/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, goaltender Sam Montembeault and forwards Anthony Greco and Henrik Borgstrom

  • 01:00 •

TULSA - The Florida Panthers remain undefeated in Oklahoma.

For the second preseason in a row, the Panthers came out on top in the Tulsa Classic, riding two goals from Anthony Greco and a stellar 30-save shutout performance from goaltender Sam Montembeault to a dominating 6-0 win over the Dallas Stars at BOK Center on Saturday night.

The victory also marked new head coach Joel Quenneville's first preseason win behind Florida's bench.

"I really liked how we played tonight," said Quenneville, who was hired in April after leading the Chicago to Stanley Cups in 2010, 2013 and 2015. "I think we were very efficient in a lot of ways. In the first period they had some chances, but after that we had the puck more than we've seen.

"We had some nice finish around the net. Nice to see Grecs [Greco] get a couple nice goals. The guys were really supporting the puck better than we've seen in the past. We had more pace and I thought we checked well."

Jumping out to an early lead, Henrik Borgstrom sent the Stars into a 1-0 hole with a goal at 11:48 of the first period. In the second, the Panthers padded their lead when Mike Hoffman made it 2-0 on the power play at 12:28. Just over a minute later, Greco made it 3-0 at 13:23.

In the third, the Panthers scored three more unanswered goals to bury the Stars and put the game out of reach. Greco lit the lamp for the second time at 3:43, while Noel Acciari and Owen Tippett chipped in two late goals at 15:28 and 19:53, respectively, to lock in the 6-0 victory.

With 3:01 left, Montembeault denied Alexander Radulov on a breakaway to preserve his shutout.

"I was really hoping he wasn't going to score," Montembeault, letting out a sigh of relief, said of the play. "He came out of nowhere. He came off the bench, I think. Just jumped out onto the ice. I don't know what happened there, but he tried his move and I think the puck slipped a little bit when he went on his backhand. I was just lucky that it fell right in my chest."

Over three preseason appearances, Montembeault has stopped 90 of 95 shots (.947 percent).

"He was outstanding," Quenneville said of the 22-year-old netminder's performance in net. "A lot of those looks were high-quality, down the barrel, especially early in the game. He looked solid and quick and had good rebound efficiency. He was excellent."

On the other side of the ice, Ben Bishop started the game between the pipes for the Stars and stopped 23 of 24 shots. Relieving him in the second period, Jake Oettinger stopped 13 of 18.

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

1. THE BIG KILL

If you're looking for momentum swings, this was one of the biggest.

The Panthers were shorthanded early after an interference penalty sent the Stars to the power play just 1:36 after the puck had dropped in the first period. But, just as it has been throughout the entire preseason, the Cats killers were up the challenge, stifling the two-minute advantage.

"It was huge," Montembeault said. "We obviously know they have a really good power play. They have five good guys that can really produce offensively for them. It was a big kill there, and then we were disciplined the rest of the game. We didn't get another penalty after that."

While Montembeault came up with more than a few big saves, the biggest moment of the kill came from Mike Matheson. With the Stars heading towards the net on a 3-on-1 break, the 25-year-old defenseman laid out to break up the play with his stick and diffuse the would-be attack.

Ending last season as one of Florida's premier penalty-killing defenseman, Matheson led the team with an average of 2:24 of shorthanded ice time per game. He also paced his teammates in points (2) and blocked shots (30) on the PK, which ranked 10th in the NHL at 81.3 percent.

Through five preseason games, Florida is a perfect 16-for-16 on the penalty kill.

"That power play's pretty lethal, and they had some good looks at it," Quenneville said. "I thought our guys did a good job in every area tonight… We haven't seen everybody's best power play and we haven't put a lot of time on [the penalty kill], so it'll be a challenge."

2. BORG-STRONG

Tulsa seems to bring out the best in Borgstrom.

After scoring the opening goal in last year's game at BOK Center, he broke the ice once again tonight. Taking a pass from Frank Vatrano, the 22-year-old center toe dragged right around a defender before beating Bishop five-hole to put the Panthers up 1-0 at 11:48 of the first period.

Tippett picked up an assist on the play, giving him points in back-to-back games.

"That felt good," Borgstrom said the goal, his first of the preseason. "Frankie [Frank Vatrano] got the puck in the O-zone, nice spin around the play to get it to me, and I was able to put it in."

The 23rd overall pick in the 2016 NHL Draft, Borgstrom produced eight goals and 10 assists in 50 games during his rookie campaign in 2018-19 with the Panthers, earning a call-up to the big club after posting 22 points in 24 games during an All-Star season with the team's AHL affiliate.

Borgstrom finished the game with two points (one goal, one assist).

"It feels really good," Borgstrom said. "First win of the season."

3. HOFF'S OFFICE

If you leave Hoffman open on the power play, he's going to make you pay.

With the Panthers on the man advantage, the dangerous 29-year-old sniper set up shop in what has become his office - the right circle. Locked and loaded, he took a feed from Troy Brouwer and rocketed home a one-timer to double Florida's lead to 2-0 at 12:28 of the second period.

Entering his second season with Florida after being acquired in a trade with San Jose for a few draft picks last summer, Hoffman went on to become the highest-scoring first-year Panther in franchise history in 2018-19, reaching new career-highs in both goals (36) and points (70).

Hoffman has now scored a power-play goal in each of his last two preseason games.

4. GRECO GOES FOR TWO

Greco couldn't have asked for a better game tonight.

Just over a minute after Borgstrom made it 2-0, Greco used his incredible speed to chase down a pass from Riley Stillman. Beating a defender to the puck, he skated in on Oettinger all alone, beating him with a nice move to extend Florida's lead to 3-0 at 13:23 of the second period.

"It was nice," the 25-year-old forward said of the win. "We needed to have a statement game, not having won yet in the preseason. It was fun to be a part of it. It's good for everyone."

In the third, Greco netted his second of the night and third in two games to make it 4-0 at 3:43.

"Every game you want to build more and more confidence," said Greco, who finished the night with two goals and an assist. "You want to get more and more comfortable, realize you have more time on the ice than you think and hold onto pucks longer. It's good to get my feet going."

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).

5. MONTY THE MOUNTAIN

Montembeault said he was seeing the puck well tonight -- and it showed.

After making 42 saves during a 5-4 shootout loss in Montreal on Thursday, the third-year pro was even more on top of his game tonight. Settling in with 12 saves in the first period, he went on to stop 18 over the next two to pick up the 30-save shutout and first win of the preseason.

"I wish it was the real season so I could get a real shutout," Montembeault chuckled. "I felt pretty good once the game started. I saw a lot of pucks. The guys did a good job keeping them away from me as much as possible. It was a great night all around for the team."

Montembeault, a third-round pick in 2015, made his NHL debut last season and competed in 11 games with the Panthers. In that short stint, he registered a 4-3-2 record - including a four-game winning streak early on -- with a 3.05 goals-against average and .894 save percentage.

Fighting for the backup job this season in Florida, Montembeault is beaming with confidence.

"I just keep improving and I want to keep it going that way," he said.

BONUS: BACK TO BB&T CENTER

The next time you see the Panthers, they'll be wearing their red sweaters.

After opening up their preseason slate with five straight road games, the Panthers will take the ice at home for the first time since April 6 when they welcome the Tampa Bay Lightning to BB&T Center on Tuesday. The first of five straight games between the intrastate rivals, the two teams will meet again in Sunrise on Thursday before closing out the preseason on Saturday in Tampa.

"Get to see some home games," Quenneville said. "Get to see a lot of Tampa Bay."

The Panthers will open the 2019-20 regular season in Tampa on Oct. 3. After that game, they will head back across the state for their home opener against the Lightning on Oct. 5 in Sunrise.

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