NHL Hockey

6
Final 1 2 3 Tot
Tampa Bay 0 4 2 6
Florida 0 0 1 1
1
4:00 PM PT5:00 PM MT6:00 PM CT7:00 PM ET0:00 GMT8:00 5:00 PM MST7:00 PM EST4:00 UAE (+1)19:00 ET22:00 BRT, February 13, 2021
BB&T Center, Sunrise, Florida  Attendance: 4,509

Subplots swirl ahead of second battle between Lightning, Panthers

Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers

  1. The Panthers claimed the first meeting this season, 5-2, on Thursday, but the Lightning have won 10 of the 13 meetings since the start of the 2017-18 season, including four of their last six trips to the BB&T Center. Florida has not won consecutive meetings since the 2016-17 season.
  2. Tampa Bay suffered just its second regulation loss of the season, matching its season high with five goals allowed after holding its opponent to exactly one goal in each of its last four games. The Lightning have now allowed 25 goals this season, the second-fewest through 12 games in franchise history (20 in 2003-04).
  3. Brayden Point scored both Tampa Bay goals on Thursday, with both tallies coming on the power-play. Point has now scored 40 career power-play goals, seventh-most in franchise history; Steven Stamkos is the all-time leader with 159.
  4. Florida picked up its second multi-goal win of the season and the first since its opening-night victory over the Blackhawks, also by a 5-2 score. The Panthers scored three of their five goals on Thursday in the second period and have a +9 goal differential in the middle frame, tied for third-best in the NHL behind the Canadiens (+12) and the Lightning (+10).
  5. Aaron Ekblad recorded two points in Thursday's win including the game-winner on his only shot on goal. Ekblad has scored four goals in his 11 games this season after tallying just five in 67 games last season.
  6. Jonathan Huberdeau recorded his 300th career assist on Thursday, becoming the first player in franchise history to tally 300 assists with the Panthers. His 15 points this season (4g, 11a) are tied with Scott Mellanby in 1995-96 for the most by a Panther through 11 player games in a season; only Pavel Bure (16 in 1998-99) had more.

The subplots are growing for the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning as they get set for the middle of three straight games against each other.

Florida won a home game on Thursday, beating the Lightning 5-2 at Sunrise, Fla. Saturday night's game is also set for Sunrise, and the teams will conclude the series Monday in Tampa Bay.

As for those story lines ...

Qyu

Consider subplot No. 1: Lightning center and team captain Steven Stamkos, who missed Thursday's game due to a lower-body injury, is questionable for Saturday's game. Stamkos, a six-time All-Star, leads Tampa Bay with seven goals. The Lightning are already without Nikita Kucherov, who is gone for the year due to a hip injury. Kucherov led the Lightning last season in goals (33) and assists (52), which means the Lightning can ill afford Stamkos' extended absence.

Subplot No. 2: Speedy Panthers winger Anthony Duclair missed Thursday's game and is questionable for Saturday due to COVID-19 protocol. New to the team this year, Duclair has yet to score a goal, but he leads the Panthers in even-strength assists with six.

Subplot No. 3: Lightning center Anthony Cirelli left Thursday's game due to an injury sustained with 8:34 left in the third period. "It didn't look good when he came off," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Subplot No. 4: After Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy and Florida's Sergei Bobrovsky started on Thursday, the Lightning (Curtis McElhinney) and the Panthers (Chris Driedger) could go with their backup goalies on Saturday. McElhinney is 1-0 with a .958 save percentage and a 1.00 goals-against average in his only appearance this season. Driedger is 3-1-1 with a .937 SP and a 1.97 GAA.

Beyond all that, the Lightning -- the reigning Stanley Cup champions -- lead the Central Division with 19 points. The Panthers, who broke Tampa Bay's six-game winning streak on Thursday, are second with 18 points and have a game in hand.

"We're excited about meeting a big challenge," said Joel Quenneville, who won three Stanley Cup titles with the Chicago Blackhawks and is in his second year with the Panthers, who have never won a championship. "The next game is going to be an even bigger challenge."

Quenneville said he was pleased with the "excitement on the bench" as his players rose to the occasion.

The beauty of Florida's performance on Thursday was that the workload was spread out among many players. The Panthers got goals from Frank Vatrano, Alex Wennberg, Aaron Ekblad, Carter Verhaeghe and Brett Connolly (empty-netter).

Aleksander Barkov and Jonathan Huberdeau -- the Panthers' two best players -- were each held to one assist, and it was still enough.

Duclair, who had been on the top line with Barkov and Verhaeghe, was replaced by Connolly, and still the Panthers kept going in what has become the second-best start in franchise history through 11 games (8-1-2).

Bobrovsky (5-0-1), who has yet to lose in regulation this season, is off to the best start ever by a Panthers goalie. Bobrovsky had such good support in front of him on Thursday that he didn't have do that much -- just 19 saves.

"We need to play hard-nose hockey," Vatrano said, "and we did that for a full 60."

Tampa Bay was led by Brayden Point, who scored twice, both on power plays, and Victor Hedman, who added two assists.

Point had plenty of praise for the upstart Panthers, saying, "They exposed us with their speed. That's a great team over there. We have to be ready for the next one. We have to try to counter their speed and come ready to play."

--Field Level Media

Updated February 12, 2021

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