TAMPA, Fl. - Jonathan Drouin's tally in the final round of the shootout helped the Tampa Bay Lightning win their fourth-straight contest of the preseason, 5-4, against the Florida Panthers Saturday night at the Tampa Bay Times Forum.
“I was pretty happy and I was a little nervous, all the fans were screaming,” Drouin said. “When I scored, I was pretty happy.”
Beginning the game with two goals from the top line by the midway point of the opening period, the Lightning would hold onto a 2-0 lead by the first's end.
Florida’s offense would take advantage of multiple power-play opportunities in the second period however, as the Panthers were able to score two goals on two man-advantage opportunities in the frame. Tampa Bay would slip in their third goal of the game between the Panthers tallies to close out the second with a 3-2 lead.
The Panthers finally caught up with the Lightning four minutes into the third to bring the score to 3-3, but the Lightning re-gained the 4-3 lead with less than eight minutes remaining in the final period. Florida would force overtime though, tallying a goal with just 58 seconds remaining in regulation.
Tampa Bay and Florida would be unable to score in the extra frame to force a shootout leading to Drouin’s final-round heroics.
“I came in and did the same move I always do like I did in Juniors,” Drouin said. “I do a little fake and then I go back and around and it’s pretty much my move.”
Steven Stamkos amassed three points in the game for Tampa Bay, scoring one goal and notching two assists, as Martin St. Louis and Ryan Malone also netted their first tallies of the preseason. Netminder Ben Bishop stopped 29 of 33 shots in the winning effort.
Scoring his first goal of the preseason, Malone would net the opening goal of the game for the Lightning to take the 1-0 lead. Picking up the puck to the right of Florida netminder Jacob Markstrom’s net, Malone would carry the puck around the back of the cage and slip the puck under Markstrom’s pads.
Then with 1:50 of 5-on-3 hockey, Tampa Bay didn’t hesitate to deliver on the advantage. Stamkos passed the puck from the top of the left faceoff circle to St. Louis at the bottom of the right circle for the one-timer to extend the Bolts lead to two at 10:34 of the first. The power-play goal was the first tally of the preseason for St. Louis, as Stamkos picked up his second assist.
Florida would cut the Bolts lead to 2-1 after nearly 30 minutes of play in the contest. Sami Salo took his second penalty of the night for delay of game and Panthers defenseman Erik Gudbranson shot a wrister from the blueline, which bounced up and over goaltender Bishop’s stick for the power-play tally and his third goal of exhibition play.
Tampa Bay answered back at 11:15 of the middle stanza however, as J.T. Brown managed to find an open lane down the right wing, sending a slapshot past Markstrom for the 3-1 score. Again, Florida would respond, with a power-play goal off of a Dmitry Kulikov slapshot to bring the Panthers back within one.
“The second was probably our worst period of the four games,” head coach Jon Cooper said.
Creating traffic in front of Markstrom’s net near the end of the middle period, the Bolts took multiple shots, which would end in an unprotected puck in the crease. Stamkos made the attempt to score, but would be tripped up in the goaltenders pads. Lightning blueliner Radko Gudas created a little pressure of his own by throwing the Panthers Jesse Winchester to the ground, but was called for a roughing penalty with less than five minutes remaining in the period.
Then a scary moment for the Bolts, as Bishop took a puck to the chest and immediately dropped to the ground, but after being evaluated by a member of the training staff, Bishop remained in the game.
At 4:14 of the third the Lightning found themselves and the Panthers even at three. Forward Tomas Kopecky took the initial shot, which bounced off of Bishop’s pads and Bobby Butler grabbed the rebound, dumping it in for the 3-3 tie.
With the game locked at three, Stamkos broke the tie at 12:35 of the final frame for the Bolts. Defenseman Matt Carle took a shot from the right faceoff circle which was redirected by Stamkos, who was positioned perfectly in front of the net for a 4-3 advantage.
At the 19:02 mark the Panthers tied the game at four to force overtime, as Butler was fed a pass from Kulikov, sending another wrister past Bishop.
“The regular season comes, especially the second half of the season and most of the games are one-goal games and are very structured and more defensive,” said Lightning forward Ryan Malone. “In close games you learn to win and I think we made a lot of right decisions tonight to put ourselves in a spot where we ended up finishing.”
Neither team managed a goal in overtime, sending the game to the skills competition. Drouin tallied the lone goal on either side in the final round to secure the 5-4 win.
“That’s why guys like that go third overall because they have the talent to do that in the shootout,” Cooper said. “I know it’s the preseason, but it’s still the National Hockey League and the game’s on the line. There’s got to be some nerves going through you and for an 18-year-old that was a salty move. Good to see he’s not going to buckle under pressure and it was nice.”
UP NEXT: The Lightning will have an off-day tomorrow and then had to Estero, Florida Monday morning to resume training camp at Germain Arena. Tampa Bay then heads to Nashville Tuesday to face the Predators in a 7:00 p.m. contest at Bridgestone Arena, before closing out their preseason schedule in two games against the Panthers.