Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) stops a shot by Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) during a shootout in an NHL preseason hockey game Saturday, Sept. 28, 2019, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara)

Bolts Lose Rubber Match to Panthers

Despite holding a one-point lead over the Florida Panthers in the Central Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning lost last night’s rubber match against its in-state rival.

After splitting a pair of away games in Sunrise, the Bolts returned to Tampa where they fell short to the Panthers, 6-4.

Lightning goaltender Curtis McElhinney, who started in net for former Vezina Trophy Winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, struggled despite facing just 21 shots. His 15-save performance granted him an uninspiring .714 save percentage, which is difficult for any offense to overcome.

Captain’s return

Under seven minutes in, Lightning captain Steven Stamkos broke the tie in his first game since returning from the COVID-19 reserve list.

Just over a minute later, Panthers winger Jonathan Huberdeau answered with a wide-open goal after McElhinney misread the puck behind the net.

https://twitter.com/FlaPanthers/status/1361473867483594752?s=20

Explosive second

McElhinney, who started in net in for former Vezina Trophy Winner Andrei Vasilevskiy, struggled to save the puck in the second. The 37-year-old goalie allowed the Panthers to score three unanswered goals in the first half of the period. A Lightning turnover led to the first goal before Florida capitalized on a penalty shot and wraparound goals.

About midway through the second, Lightning winger Alexander Volkov snuck a wrister from the faceoff circle past Panthers goaltender Chris Driedger to cut the deficit to two.

Less than a minute later, however, Panthers captain Alexander Barkov scored his fifth goal of the season to go up 5-2. Barkov’s goal marked his 420th career point, surpassing Olli Jokinen as the second-leading points scorer in Florida Panthers history.

In the last five minutes of the period, Tampa Bay netted two more goals to stay within reach and make it a one-goal game entering the third. Volkov remained hot, scoring his second goal of the night and third of the season.

Not even a minute later, Lightning center Tyler Johnson scored a one-timer on an odd-man rush after receiving a perfect pass from defenseman Mikhail Sergachev.

Quiet third

Roughly a minute into the third period, Panthers defenseman Anton Stralman scored his first goal of the season on a wrister from the point.

Following an explosive second period, Stralman’s goal gave Florida the breathing room it needed to hold off Tampa for the final 19 minutes for a 6-4 victory.

Next up

The Lightning will head to Texas as they prepare for a two-game road series against the Dallas Stars. The first game will take place Thursday night before Saturday’s rematch. Following a five-game losing streak, the Stars sit seven points behind the Bolts in the Central Division standings.

About Griffin Foll

Hello! I am a sophomore at UF studying journalism sports & media. I help contribute radio and website content for ESPN Gainesville. Additionally, I am a sports writer for The Independent Florida Alligator and help cover the UF women's basketball team. I am also the UF softball beat reporter for ChompTalk.com.

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