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The Tampa Bay Lightning will be looking to make it two straight wins at home when they host their cross-state rival, the Florida Panthers, tonight at the St. Pete Times Forum.
The Bolts (1-1-2) will look to build on their decisive 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night. In that game, Tampa Bay fired 39 shots on goal, led by Martin St. Louis with seven, but the real star of the show was Ryan Malone. Malone collected his first hat trick as a member of the Lightning and third in his career. His goal total for the season now stands at a team-leading four.
In Saturday’s win, Antero Nittymaki made his first start in net for the Lightning, making 24 saves, several of the acrobatic variety, while facing 26 shots. His solid play has earned him his second consecutive start tonight against Florida.
Tampa Bay’s revamped defense, much maligned last season, has been an early bright spot, both for their defensive play and scoring prowess. Led by Mattias Ohlund with four assists, the defense has accumulated 12 points to date.
The Panthers (1-3-0) have been having difficulty generating much offense early in the season. They have a total of only eight goals scored after playing four games, and their power play has connected at an anemic 6.2 % success rate. Forward Michael Frolik leads Florida with three points and two goals.
The Panthers arrive carrying a three-game losing streak, but they have traditionally played the Lightning tough. Last season the Southeast Division rivals went 3-3 against the Bolts, including an overtime win.
Following tonight’s match-up, the Lightning head out on a two-game road swing which will take them Ottawa to play the Senators on Thursday night and to Pittsburgh to face the current Stanley Cup Champion Penguins before returning to Tampa to meet the San Jose Sharks on October 22nd.
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