ESTERO,FL—Power plays fueled tonight’s contest as the Florida Panthers traveled to Estero to faceoff against cross-state rivals, the Tampa Bay Lighting.
Jonathan Huberdeau started off the scoring with a power play goal in the first. Huberdeau would find the back of the net again in the second, giving the Cats a 2-0 lead. Assisted by Tom Gilbert and Brian Campbell, Huberdeau would go on to earn the number star of the game.
However despite the help from the man advantage, an early lead wouldn’t be enough for the Panthers.
Too many men on the ice left the Panthers shorthanded in the second, leading to an answer from Tampa Bay’s Tyler Johnson. The tying goal came shorthanded from Richard Panik, while Tampa’s Eric Brewer was in the box for slashing.
Neither team able to pull the trigger at the end of the third sent the game into overtime. This was Florida’s fourth overtime of the preseason and second against Tampa Bay this September.
Jacob Markstrom would stop 13 of 15 faced, but not the blast from Nikita Kucherov who sealed the win for the Bolts at 4:55 in the overtime period.
Markstrom played from the middle of the second period on, stepping in on the exhibition match for a goaltender who saw his first ice in a Panthers sweater.
Starting in net for the Panthers was Tim Thomas, who signed a one-year contract with the club this afternoon. Thomas made nine saves on ten shots before being replaced.
“He battles every shift and every practice,” said GM Dale Tallon of Thomas before the game, “It’s a great message to our young players.”
Tonight’s game also saw the return of Kris Versteeg to the line up. Recovering from a knee injury, Versteeg only played in 10 NHL games last season.
In front of a crowd of 3,451, the second to last preseason game for the Panthers was played roughly halfway between Tampa Bay and Sunrise at the Germain Arena, home of the ECHL Florida Everblades.
These two teams meet once again this Saturday, Sept.28 at The BB&T Center. Puck drops at 7 p.m. to round out the preseason.