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Cats Blank Lightning In Final Exhibition Game

by Staff Writer / Florida Panthers

Hagman Scores Twice While Luongo Records Shutout

SUNRISE, FL – Panthers LW Niklas Hagman, RW Kristian Huselius and C Chris Gratton each had multi-point games while G Roberto Luongo recorded a shutout as Florida blanked the Tampa Bay Lightning, 4-0, before 15,307 in their final preseason game.

The Cats finish the preseason with a 3-2-1 record heading into Wednesday's regular season opener against the Atlanta Thrashers at the BankAtlantic Center. It's just the second time in franchise history that Florida has finished the preseason with a winning record.

Despite playing without three of their most talented forwards – C Joe Nieuwendyk, C Olli Jokinen and LW Gary Robert s – the Cats played one of their most complete games of the preseason.

Hagman opened the scoring just 25 seconds into the game when he deflected a slapshot from Gratton past Lightning goalie John Grahame. The early score set the tone for a period in which the Panthers out shot Tampa Bay 8-5.

The second period was when Luongo shined, making 11 of his 32 total saves, including a ten minute span to start the period that saw the Lightning outshoot the Cats 6-1. Huselius made Luongo's efforts all the more crucial when he gave Florida a 2-0 lead with under three minutes remaining in the second.

A pretty cross ice feed from rookie LW Rostislav Olesz sprung Huselius on a breakaway and the Swede took care of the rest, faking a slapshot before sliding the puck between Grahame's legs.

The Cats padded their lead in the third period when Hagman pounded home a Huselius rebound at 10:26 and RW Nathan Horton scored from the left circle off a feed from C Stephen Weiss.

The Panthers will meet up with Tampa Bay again in the second game of the season on Friday, Oct. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Less than 2,000 tickets remain for that game while fewer than 750 tickets remain available for Opening Night against the Thrashers at 7 p.m on Wednesday, Oct. 5.

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