Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers Dominate in First Meeting With Defending Champs Tampa Bay Lightning

Frank Vatrano, Carter Verhaeghe and Brett Connolly also scored while Sergei Bobrovsky made 19 saves.

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Aaron Ekblad and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Thursday night.

Frank Vatrano, Carter Verhaeghe and Brett Connolly also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky made 19 saves.

Braden Point scored twice for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves. The Lighting had won six straight.

The teams will meet again Saturday night in Sunrise.

With captain Steven Stamkos out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, Tampa Bay lacked its usual firepower while Florida was highly effective in its offensive end.

The Panthers opened the scoring midway through the first period when Vatrano took a feed from Owen Tippett behind the net and put a one-timer past Vasilevskiy. Wennberg made it 2-0 at 8:31 of the second, with Jonathan Huberdeau getting his 300th NHL assist on the play.

Point cut it to 2-1 on a power play at 10:55 of the second, and Ekblad and Verhaeghe countered quickly with goals in a 2:01 span in the period. Point scored again on a power play 54 seconds into the third.

Connolly scored into an empty net.


Stamkos, who is listed as day to day, had played in all 11 games for Tampa Bay, logging seven goals and seven assists. He was also key on the Lightning’s power-play unit having scored four times.

The Tampa Bay captain did not play the final 5:26 of a 6-1 victory at Nashville on Tuesday nihht. In that contest, he scored two goals and added an assist.


Verhaeghe, who won the Stanley Cup as a rookie with Tampa Bay last season, agreed to a two-year contract with Florida on Oct. 9 and has scored nine points (six goals, three assists) in 10 games.

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