The Florida Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Tuesday afternoon at the Panthers IceDen, capping off a perfect rookie tournament showing in which they outscored their opponents by a combined score of 14-8.
CORAL SPRINGS, Fla. - The Florida Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Tuesday afternoon at the Panthers IceDen, capping off a perfect rookie tournament showing in which they outscored their opponents by a combined score of 14-8.
The battle between the two intrastate rivals was by far the toughest test that the Panthers' rookies faced at the 2016 South Florida Tournament, but the team still managed to pass with flying colors.
"As I told you guys the last two times, the compete level was off the charts," Springfield Thunderbirds head coach Geordie Kinnear said. "They were tired today, but they still found a way to dig in and get the job done. I was proud of those guys."
The Lightning, who also entered the matchup with a untarnished 2-0 record in the tournament, were the first to strike in the game, when defenseman Libor Hajek took a pass from Taylor Raddysh and fired a shot past goaltender Samuel Montembeault to make it 1-0 at 14:50 of the first period.
In the second, Kyle Rau finally broke the ice for the Panthers, scoring off a nice feed from center Tyson Baillie to make it 1-1 at 13:52 of the period.
Rau, who skated in nine games with the Panthers after making his NHL debut last season, was a model of consistency on Florida's top line throughout tournament, finishing with two goals and an assist in three games.
"His last two games were really good," Kinnear said of Rau. "He's not a guy that gets noticed, but he did all the little things well - battled, good on the wall. He was a good hockey player."
Less than two minutes after Rau's tally, Adam Mascherin sent a puck towards the Lightning's crease that caromed off Panthers winger Zac Lynch's skate and into the net to make it a 2-2 game at 15:40 of the second period.
From there, Montembeault made a flurry of saves to keep the Panthers in the game just long enough for tournament standout Denis Malgin to score the game-winning goal, roofing a beautiful backhand shot over the shoulder of Lightning goaltender Adam Wilcox with just 1:14 remaining in regulation.
"He was just a calming presence," Kinnear said of Montembeault, who finished the tournament with 39 saves on 41 shots. "He had some tough saves. (The Lightning) came out hard early, they dumped every puck. I thought he played the puck very well for a young guy. He just showed that poise and played very well."
As for Malgin, the 19-year-old center finished his first-ever rookie tournament with a tournament-high six goals in three games.
"He's a great player," Rau said of Malgin. "Every time he has the puck, something exciting seemed to happen. Hopefully he can keep it rolling, too."
Florida's training camp begins Thursday.
"I'm a big believer in everyone for your team and for your teammates. These guys adopted it, and it just becomes contagious. That's how you really bond. It's not going out for dinner after, it's the shot blocking, the fights, sticking up for your teammates. That's how teams come together."
- Springfield Thunderbirds head coach Georide Kinnear when asked about the Panthers team-first mentality throughout the tournament.
"It's nice. I feel good about where my game is. I feel like I'm in shape and ready to go. Who knows when the chips start flying how it will go, but any kind of confidence, it's nice to try and keep it."
- Panthers forward Kyle Rau on his confidence heading into training camp.
GAME 3 LINEUP vs. TAMPA BAY
Dryden Hunt - Denis Malgin - Kyle Rau
Rihards Bukarts - Juho Lammikko - Connor Brickley
Adam Mascherin - Jonathan Ang - Anthony Greco
Spencer Abraham - Tyson Baillie - Zac Lynch
Eddie Wittchow - Linus Hultstrom
Ian McCoshen - Thomas Schemitsch
Riley Stillman - Josh Brown
Starter: Samueul Montembeault // Backup: Colin Stevens