After a tough close out to the 2018-2019 season, The Bolts bounce back with a 5-3 home opener victory versus in state rivals, the Florida Panthers! In Thursday night’s home opener, not only did we see many new faces, Carter Verhaeghe, Pat Maroon, and Kevin Shattenkirk, but we saw a new Lightning mentality on the ice, a more defensive mentality.
Early in the 1st period you saw the bolts taking a focus to playing defensively, Coach Cooper mentioned in an earlier press conference that after last season, they were going to focus on defense. It’s a benefit that the Lightning have a Vezina Trophy winning goalie in Vasy, but they can’t over work or rely on him, they must do better protecting him. In terms of giving Vasy a break, backup goalie, McElhinney has shown to be a talent in the net as well during his time with the Carolina Hurricanes. Palat came out very physical removing guys from plays and helping the Bolts have extended offense time. As the Lightning relentlessly attacked the Panthers goal, eventually Sergachev positioned himself to get a pass off the Kucherov for the 1st goal of the night.
Heading into the 2nd period, Panthers, Mike Hoffman tied up the game, but that didn’t last long, Sergachev was not done making his point to the Panthers, at the halfway point of the 2nd period, Sergachev set up new comer, Shattenkirk to land his first goal as a Bolt, putting the Lightning up, 2-1. Florida kept at the Lightning net, but the defense was consistent in their prevention of any further goals that period.
3rd period for a moment could have been anyone’s game as the Panthers, Vincent Trocheck put a wrist shot on goal. Not too long after Palat responded with a tip-in and in then Hedman found Pat Maroon at the head of the crease to assist him in his NHL debut goal, putting the Bolts up 4-2. Then in the final face-off of the night defensive player, Erik Cernak, shot off of a pass from Cirelli to score an empty netter, officially closing out the home opener, Lightning 5, Panthers 2. In post-game interviews Palat mentioned how everyone wants to win their home opener and the momentum it will give at the Bolts head out for their two-week road trip starting with another game versus the Panthers, Saturday October 5th at BB&T Center.
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