Not even the first loss of the season at the hands of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s in-state division rivals could put a damper on an otherwise successful season-opening road trip.
Tampa Bay, who entered the final game of its three-game trip on the heels of two consecutive victories, suffered its first loss of the season on Saturday at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, falling 6-0 to the division-rival Florida Panthers.
Goaltender Mike Smith, who entered the contest 3-0-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average in his previous three starts on the road, was just as good to start his relief effort of Dan Ellis in the first period, but the Florida Panthers’ momentum that was sparked by a four-goal first period carried through until the final horn of regulation.
Smith finished with 20 saves on the night after coming into the game in relief of Dan Ellis, who stopped 12 shots.
The loss marked Tampa Bay’s first since last season’s 8-5 defeat at the hands of Carolina on Apr. 6, snapping the team’s six-game winning streak, which dated back to the end of last season.
Florida’s victory, meanwhile, marked the first against the Lightning in the last three meetings between the two Southeast Division clubs.
Tomas Vokoun earned his 40th career shutout, stopping all 29 shots faced.
Former Lightning forward Cory Stillman wasted little time opening scoring, as he wristed one past Ellis at 1:50 after taking a pass from Bryan McCabe.
Florida also got a pair of goals from David Booth, who made it 2-0 at 14:25 in the opening period when he put a loose puck home in front of the net, as well as a tally from Steven Reinprecht who increased the advantage to three just 48 seconds later.
“We had a lot of chances and we generated a lot of shots,” Booth said. “We just wanted to keep doing the same thing.”
Dennis Wideman and Rostislav Olesz also scored for the Panthers, who moved to 2-2-0 on the season after dropping its first pair of consecutive contests.
Wideman capped the scoring in the opening frame when he sent a slap shot that was deflected out in front into the net past Smith, who replaced Ellis in goal with five minutes remaining in the first.
Booth collected his second of the night, finishing off an odd-man rush with Rostislav Olesz at 7:49 in the final period before Olesz found the back of the net to make it 6-0 at 17:25.
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