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5 Takeaways: Panthers Fight Hard in Loss to Lightning

by Jameson Olive / @JamesonCoop /

9/26/19 Post Game Interviews

9/26/19 Post Game Interviews

Interviews with Head Coach Joel Quenneville, forward Owen Tippett, defenseman Keith Yandle, and goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky

  • 01:25 •

SUNRISE, Fla. - The Florida Panthers never packed it in.

In a game in which it seemed a lot didn't go their way, the Panthers kept clawing until the final second ticked off the clock in their 4-2 preseason loss to the Tampa Bay Light on Thursday night at BB&T Center.

On Tuesday night, the Panthers topped the Lightning by a score of 6-3 in Sunrise.

"I think we're building our way to being a fast team, playing fast and playing with the puck," Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. "This probably wasn't our best showing of that. I think we kind of got away from it a little bit from the game the other night. We did some good things. It's preseason. We're learning new systems and all that stuff. We did some good things and had some things we'll probably have to clean up. I thought we fought hard until the end."

The Panthers played a tight game in the opening frame, limiting the Lightning to seven shots on goal and carrying a 1-0 lead into the intermission on a goal from Owen Tippet late in the period.

"I thought in the first period we did a good job of doing our systems, doing what Q [Panthers head coach Joel Quenneville] and the coaches want us to do," Yandle said. "I think it's just one of those things where continuing to do that will help us be successful."

In the middle frame, the Lightning struck twice. The first goal came from Cedric Paquette, who turned an intercepted pass into a goal from the slot at 14:13 to tie the game 1-1. Then, with 28 seconds left in the period, Yanni Gourde deflected in a goal to put Tampa Bay up 2-1 at 19:32.

At 13:16 of the third period, reigning Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov found the back of the net to push the Lightning's lead to 3-1. Just 10 seconds after that goal, with Tampa Bay on the power play, Steven Stamkos buried a one-timer on the man advantage to make it 4-1 at 13:26.

Still, the Panthers kept fighting.

As tempers started to flare, Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar dropped the gloves with forward Luke Witkowski, who had previously tangoed with Panthers defenseman Josh Brown in Tuesday's game, after the Lightning forward drilled teammate Riley Stillman along the boards.

With 1:40 left in regulation, Evgenii Dadonov's power-play goal cut Florida's deficit to 4-2.

"You want to make sure you're doing the right things as a team," Quenneville said. "Teammates sticking together is important. Weegs did a good job there sticking up for his teammates. It was a solid move. Watching how the game went at the end there, we want to make sure we're playing right to the end no matter what the situation is."

Here are five takeaways from Thursday's loss in Sunrise…


The Panthers had two injury scares during tonight's game.

Barkov left the game late in the first period, while Connolly exited the game just 14 seconds into the third period.

After the game, the initial news regarding both was positive.

"I think they're both going to be fine," Quenneville said. "We'll see how they see present tomorrow, but they both look like they're going to be OK."


Tippett continues to find his way onto the scoresheet.

Flying into the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 break, Frank Vatrano waited until the very last second before sliding the puck under a defender's sick and right onto the tape of Tippett, who forcefully tapped the puck into the net to break the ice and put Florida up 1-0 at 16:01 of the first period.

"It helps with confidence, for sure," said Tippett, who now has goals in three straight contests. "Frankie made a nice pass… I think it all just comes with confidence. I feel more confident with the puck and my playmaking abilities. Obviously it comes with time. Yeah, I felt good."

The 10th-overall pick in the 2017 NHL Draft, Tippett is fighting for a spot with the Panthers after wrapping up his junior career in the spring. In his final tour of the junior ranks, the 20-year-old tallied 33 goals and 41 assists in 54 OHL games split between Mississauga and Saginaw.

Tippett has already made Florida's roster once out of training camp, earning a spot as an 18-year-old in 2017-18. Before being he returned to the OHL, he had one goal in seven games.

"I think he had a heck of a game," Quenneville said of Tippett's performance tonight. "As camp's progressed, he seems to be welcoming all challenges. He's doing some really good things individually with his playmaking ability in tight areas and his shot. He's had the puck more as we've progressed here. He looks like he's getting better."


No matter who he's lining up alongside, Dadonov is dangerous.

With the Cats sent to the power play late in the game after high-sticking penalty from Paquette, the 30-year-old winger pounced on a rebound after a long shot from Mike Hoffman, sending the loose puck into the net to cut Tampa Bay's lead down to 4-2 with 1:40 remaining in regulation.

Producing at better than a point-per-game pace in the preseason, Dadonov has posted two goals and four assists in three exhibition games thus far. On the heels of a career-best season, he reached new highs in both assists (42) and points (70) in 2018-19, while also matching his career-best goal total of 28. Over the last two seasons, he ranks third on the team in goals (56).


Sergei Bobrovsky said he "felt good" after tonight's game.

Making his first full start of the preseason, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner stopped 21 of 25 shots, including more than a few highlight-reel grabs. In his debut on Tuesday, he played just over half the game, registering 12 saves over 31:08 of ice time before heading to the bench.

"It's a process," Bobrovsky said. "It's one of those things where you have to bring all the stuff together. I felt comfortable there. I felt really good. I had good energy and my focus was good."

Entering his first season with the Panthers after joining the club on a seven-year deal during free agency, Bobrovsky owned 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.

"Bob was good," Quenneville said. "He made several key saves coming down the middle of the ice with possession. [The Lightning] have got some great shooters. They're a heck of a hockey club. I thought he did well."


We've almost reached the end of this preseason journey.

With seven exhibition games already in the books, the Panthers will have their final tune-up of training camp on Saturday night against -- you guessed it -- the Lightning across Alligator Alley at Amalie Arena. After that, the intrastate rivals will open the regular season in Tampa on Oct. 3.

"You get sick of seeing the same guys over and over," Yandle said of the five-game series between the two clubs. "I'm sure us and them would rather have these games count. The only time it's fun playing a team five games in a row is in the playoffs."

The Panthers will celebrate their own home opener against the Lightning on Oct. 5 in Sunrise.


-- Vincent Trocheck led the Panthers with a game-high 22:11 of ice time.

-- Noel Acciari went 10-for-13 (77 percent) in the faceoff circle.

-- Vatrano led the Panthers with a game-high five shots on goal.

-- Stillman led Florida with 2:12 of ice time on the penalty kill.

-- Weegar led the Panthers and was tied for the game-high with five hits.

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