Tampa Bay Sports Day

NHL: Tampa Bay Bests Florida Panthers in Season Opener

TAMPA, Fla. –– Tampa Bay lost a two-goal lead in the second period, then pulled away with a pair in the third, opening the season with a win over Florida at Amalie Arena.

“My message after the game was if we play like that, we’re going to win our fair share of games,” said Florida first-year coach Bob Boughner said. “I wasn’t unhappy with the effort. Sometimes the execution has to get better, but we had a lot of chances.”

The two teams continue their cross-state rivalry Saturday with a rematch in Sunrise, Fla., as part of a home-and-home series on the opening weekend.

“It wasn’t our best effort by far, but these wins mean a lot,” Stamkos said after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 5-3 win over the Florida Panthers on Friday night at Amalie Arena. “We talk about how important it was to get points, and there were spurts where we didn’t play very well, but we took advantage of a big power play to start the third, got the lead and held onto it.”

The Lightning got two goals Ondrej Palat and one each from Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Nikita Kucherov.

“Kind of a theme of our whole preseason was we got better as the game went on,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “The power play came up big when it needed to to start the third, and it took a little weight off our shoulders.”

Connor Brickley, Mark Pysyk and Jonathan Huberdeau scored for the Panthers.

“We did a lot of good things, had a lot of good opportunities, a lot of good shots on net,” Panthers defenseman Keith Yandle said. “One of those things where we weren’t able to find the one or two we needed, but I like the way we played, liked the way we competed. It was a good step. You can’t win all of them, but we take a lot of good things from this game.”