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5 Takeaways: Lightning Top Panthers in 2019-20 Opening Night Battle

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop / FloridaPanthers.com

10/3/19 Post Game Interviews

10/3/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forwards Aleksander Barkov and Vincent Trocheck and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

  • 01:15 •

Aleksander Barkov believes the Florida Panthers likely deserved a better result following a 5-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Thursday night's 2019-20 season opener at AMALIE Arena.

In defeat, the Panthers both out-shot (37-30) and out-attempted (60-50) the Lightning.

"We should've scored a lot more," the Panthers captain told reporters after the game. "I feel playing a game like that and giving away a win, it's not the way we want to play games. We want to win games. We want to feel good after the games. This is not a good feeling. We had the game in our hands. We played really well. We just couldn't win. We need to learn how to win."

Nikita Kucherov, the NHL's reigning Hart Trophy winner, opened the scoring at 6:39 of the first period, sending a shot past Sergei Bobrovsky on a delayed penalty to put the Lightning up 1-0.

In the second period, Mike Hoffman tied the game for the Panthers, taking a no-look pass from Vincent Trocheck and beating Andrei Vasilevskiy from the slot to make it 1-1. Later, just after their power play expired, the Bolts went back up 2-1 on a goal from Kevin Shattenkirk at 10:28.

Entering the second intermission, Florida held a 28-17 advantage in shots on goal.

"I liked the first 40 minutes," Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville said. "The last 20 [minutes] were a bit too loose for us. [The Lightning] got some timely goals late in their power plays, but I thought for the most part we were in pretty good shape. We didn't have the puck much in the third, which was in their favor, because they've a lot of skill and a lot of speed when they do have it."

After Trocheck tied the game 2-2 at 8:49 of the third period with a shorthanded goal, Tampa Bay quickly reclaimed the lead on a power-play goal from Ondrej Palat just 45 seconds later at 9:34 that made it 3-2. At 13:51, Pat Maroon scored two seconds after another Tampa Bay power play had expired to make it 4-2. At 19:14, Erik Cernak converted on an empty-netter to make it 5-2.

The Panthers finished the night 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Lightning went 1-for-3.

"I thought we played aggressive," Trocheck said. "We played a tough matchup game. They're obviously a great team. We played it tough and close. The score was more lopsided than the game actually was…I think if we continue on the track we're on, we'll be fine."

Here are five takeaways from Thursday night's loss in Tampa Bay…

1. HOFFMAN GETS NO. 1

Hoffman picked up right where he left off last season.

After leading the Panthers with a career-high 36 goals in 2018-19, the 29-year-old sniper was back to doing what he does best tonight. Hoffman collected a no-look pass from Trocheck and roofed a shot over Vasilevskiy's shoulder from the slot to tie the game 1-1 at 2:35 of the second period.

Making his Panthers debut, Brett Connolly picked up the secondary assist on the play. 

Video: FLA@TBL: Trocheck sets up Hoffman at the doorstep

"I like our play ever since the first shift," Hoffman told FOX Sports Florida's Jessica Blaylock during the second intermission.

"We had opportunities, a couple in that period. I like the way everyone's playing. If we keep going that way, we'll get a few more."

In addition to his work in the goal-scoring department, Hoffman, who was acquired in a trade with San Jose in the summer of 2018, also chipped in 34 assists last season to finish with a career-best 70 points - the most points ever by a player in their first season with the Panthers.

Overall, Trocheck believes the new line of Hoffman, Connolly and himself has a lot of potential.

"We all compliment each other really well," he said.

2. GET SHORTY

Florida's penalty kill looks like it'll have some offensive fangs this season.

With the Lightning sent to the power play midway through the third period, Aaron Ekblad jumped on a loose puck in the neutral zone and sent Trocheck up ice on a breakaway. With only the goalie to beat, he went top-shelf with a wrist shot to get the game all knotted up 2-2 at 8:49.

The goal was the third short-handed tally of Trocheck's career.

Video: FLA@TBL: Trocheck ties it up on shorthanded snipe

"The penalty kill, we can clean up a bit," Trocheck said. "We gave them a little too much O-zone time. We'd like to break up a few of their break-ins a little bit better, and obviously we need to take away their two big guns on the half walls. Like I said, I think we're on the right track."

A hot starter, Trocheck now has two goals and six assists in five career Opening Night contests.

3. A WARM WELCOME

Anton Stralman knows his way around AMALIE Arena.

But the visitors locker room? Well, it's been a little while.

"This used to be all metal last time I was in here," he joked following today's morning skate.

After spending the previous five seasons with the Lightning, the 33-year-old defenseman was on the other side of the ice tonight, playing his first regular-season game with the Panthers. In his time with Tampa Bay, Stralman registered 29 goals and 101 assists in 355 games played.

Early in the first period, he received a tribute video and standing ovation from Lightning fans.

"You need to keep your head clear," Stralman said earlier in the day. "It's just another hockey game."

In his debut with the Panthers, Stralman notched one blocked shot and one takeaway while earning a plus-one rating over 19:03 of ice time. When he was on the ice at 5-on-5, Florida dominated possession with a 19-5 advantage in shot attempts, per NaturalStatTrick.com.

4. GOALIE BATTLE

Bobrovsky and Vasilevskiy each added a few clips to their personal highlight reels tonight.

In a battle between two former Vezina Trophy winners, Bobrovsky stopped 25 of 29 shots, while Vasilevskiy turned aside 35 of 37. That being said, Bobrovsky's numbers aren't quite indicative of just how good he looked, as most of Tampa Bay's goals came on or just after power plays.

"Bob did fine," Quenneville said. "They got a couple of bounces that went off us and the end boards. I think it's one of the games where he did what he could, made a bunch of big saves."

Bobrovsky's biggest save came early in the second period, when he dove to make a point-blank stop on a one-timer attempt from Palat, who appeared to have an open net from the right circle.

Video: FLA@TBL: Bobrovsky robs Palat in Panthers debut

Entering his first season with the Panthers after joining the team on a seven-year deal on July 1, the 31-year-old goaltender owned a 37-24-1 record with a league-best nine shutouts in 2018-19.

"I felt good," Bobrovsky said. "It's good to start the season. Obviously we wanted to have a 'W' tonight, but it is what it is. It's a long season. I don't think we have to think too much. We just have to put this game behind us and get ready to work in our Home Opener."

5. MORE TO COME

Speaking of the Home Opener, the Panthers won't have to wait long to get their revenge.

Kicking off their own 41-game slate of home games, the Panthers will attempt to lock up their first win of the season when they welcome the Lightning to BB&T Center on Saturday night.

"It's a good thing in this league. You play every other day. You get a new chance," Barkov said. "Of course it's not a good feeling right now, but I feel like we all know what we need to do and how we need to approach the next game. We just need to get better."

For tickets to the Home Opener, click HERE.

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