"I thought we played a good game," Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau said. "Obviously we still let in three goals, but I thought overall that's how we're going to play this year. We're going to have all four lines going, and every line's going to have the chance to score some goals."
Florida's top line of Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov and Evgenii Dadonov led the attack against the Lightning, combining for three goals and four assists. Over just two preseason appearances, the line - which combined for 258 points last season - has notched five goals and eight assists.
Still, Barkov, who is entering his second season as captain, thinks the line can be better.
"When you score goals and make plays and get good chances in the offensive zone, it builds your confidence and stuff like that," said Barkov, who scored twice. "I can't say we played really well as a line today. We had a couple goals, but we can be better. That tells us a lot, though. We don't have to be at our best to score goals. I think the whole team is the same way."
The game started off slow, with the two teams tied 1-1 and the Lightning holding a 5-4 shot advantage heading into the first intermission. Alexander Volkov opened the scoring and put Tampa Bay on top 1-0 at 15:53. But at 19:04, Frank Vatrano scored shorthanded to make it 1-1.
In the second period, the scoring explosion started.
Starting with a goal from Barkov at 2:12 - the result from a beautiful passing sequence - the Panthers went on to light the lamp four times in the middle frame. Barkov scored his second at 4:55, while Huberdeau and Dominic Toninato lit the lamp at 5:14 and 14:11, respectively.
Also in the second, Anthony Cirelli found the back of the 3:54 and Mikhail Sergachev followed suit on the power play at 16:35 to cut Tampa Bay's deficit to 5-3 heading into the third period. Cirelli could have had more if not for Sergei Bobrovsky, who denied him on great chance from the slot.
Making his preseason debut, Bobrovsky stopped 12 of 14 shots in 31:08. Coming into the game in relief midway through the second, Chris Driedger turned aside eight of the 10 shots he faced.
For Tampa Bay, reigning Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed six goals on 24 shots.
"It was good for him to get in the net," Panthers coach Joel Quenneville said of Bobrovsky, who joined the team on a seven-year deal this summer. "He made a spectacular save. I think he's going to keep getting better as we go along here and getting more comfortable with the guys in front of him. I think that learning curve is going to be good for the guys in front of him as well."
At 3:53 of the third period, Denis Malgin scored to make it 6-3 and secure the win for Florida.
"The pace started out quick and then it slowed down a little bit," Quenneville said of the game. "We were fortunate around the net. We finished some nice plays. I would expect guys as we progress through these games to be a little more intense as we go along. We did some good things. I thought Barky's line was good. We made some nice plays on the goals."
Here are five takeaways from Tuesday's win in Sunrise…
1. SHORTY SZN
The Panthers headed into the first intermission on a high note.
On the penalty kill after being whistled for too many men, Henrik Borgstrom carried the puck up the ice on a 2-on-1 break before sending a pass to Vatrano, who wristed a shot past Vasilevskiy from the slot for a shorthanded goal to tie the game 1-1 with 56 seconds left in the first period.
"It was really good," Huberdeau said of the goal. "I thought Borgy was really good. I think he's stronger on the puck. It's good to see him play like that. I think our PK did a good job. Like I said, it's a huge goal when you score on the PK."
Entering his second full season with the Panthers, Vatrano, who was acquired in a trade with Boston in Feb. of 2018, reached new career-highs in goals (24), assists (15), points (39) and games played (81) during the 2018-19 campaign. Playing a strong two-way game, the 25-year-old also led the club's forwards with 74 blocked shots and set a new career-high with 139 hits.
With only 1:50 on the penalty kill last season, perhaps he'll see more time there in 2019-20.
"It's preseason," Quenneville said of the penalty kill. "There's some things that we're trying to improve on, talk about and try to get more familiar with. You still haven't seen teams put in the special teams work at this time on the power play. I'm sure over the next couple exhibition games, you know that's going to be a focus going into the start of the regular season."
The Panthers ranked 10th on the penalty kill last season with an 81.3 percent success rate.
2. BARKOV BAGS TWO
Florida's top line put on a passing clinic to start the second period.
Flying into the zone after collecting a beautiful stretch feed from Keith Yandle, Dadonov sent a pass to his right to Huberdeau, who then shipped the puck through the slot to his left and onto the stick of Barkov, who finished off the sequence with a go-ahead goal that made it 2-1 at 2:12.
"I was going to shoot that one," Huberdeau smiled. "I had it on my stick, but Barky was wide open, so I guess I have to pass to him. I think we see each other really well on the ice, so we just have to keep doing that."
Later, just over a minute after the Lightning tied things up at 2-2, Barkov took advantage of a mental mistake to pot his second goal of the night. Coming out to play the puck behind his net, Vasilevskiy sent a pass right in front to Barkov, who made it 3-2 at 4:55 of the second period.
Through two preseason games, Barkov has tallied two goals and three assists. Fresh off the best season of his career, the 24-year-old center scored a career-high 35 goals and set a single-season franchise record with 96 points during the 2018-19 campaign.
"I've got an appreciation for how good Barky is, getting to watch him," Quenneville said. "There's so many things he does well. The ice he can control, that stick and his reach and that strength."
Dadonov, who had a career-high 70 points last season, finished the night with two assists.
3. CRASHING THE CREASE
After watching Barkov score twice, it was Huberdeau's turn to get in on the action.
With a ton of traffic in front of Vasilevskiy, the 26-year-old winger outmuscled the opposition to get to a loose puck in the crease, whacking it into the net to extend Florida's lead to 4-2 at 5:14 of the second period - his second goal of the preseason and second point overall of the night.
"We've just got keep going, keep climbing," Huberdeau said. "We've got a new system. We really like it. We've just got to work hard every night and we should be good."
Like Barkov, Huberdeau is also coming off the best season his career. In addition to registering a career-best 30 goals and 92 points, he also set a new franchise single-season record with 62 assists. Over his final 26 games of the 2018-19 season, he racked up 17 goals and 40 points.
4. BOB'S BETWEEN THE PIPES
The Bobrovsky era has officially begun in South Florida.
Getting his first taste of competitive action since guiding Columbus to the second round of last season's playoffs, the 31-year-old netminder stopped 12 of 14 shots in his debut with the Cats.
"He's only going to get more comfortable, get more familiar," Quenneville said.
Entering his first season with the Panthers after joining the club on a seven-year deal during free agency, the two-time Vezina Trophy winner went 37-24-1 with a 2.58 goals-against average, .913 save percentage and an NHL-best nine shutouts during the 2018-19 campaign.
Bobrovsky is expected to see more time in net over the next two preseason games.
5. TEAM EFFORT
It wasn't only the stars that shined bright for the Panthers tonight.
Overall, at least one player from each of the team's four forward lines scored a goal.
When asked about that team effort, Barkov said it all starts with practice.
"You see Borgstrom's line, Trocheck's line and Toninato's line, everyone's playing really well in the offensive zone, really well in the defensive zone," Barkov said. "Our defenseman, too. And, of course, we have really good goalies in the net. There's not much else you can ask for. We've been playing really well. We've been practicing really hard. That translates in the game. Good pace and good work ethic, that's always a good combination."