The Lightning is a very dangerous offensive team, especially when it has more players on the ice than its opponent.
And it’s not like the Panthers didn’t know this, either.
On Thursday night, Tampa Bay took advantage of the Panthers’ parade to the penalty box as it won the season opener 3-2 in overtime at Amalie Arena.
All three of Tampa Bay’s goals came on the power play — two of which were when Florida had just three defenders on the ice — including the game winner 49 seconds into overtime.
Tampa Bay ended up with seven power-play chances; Florida had just two.
“We took too many penalties but, for the most part, I thought we played hard,’’ said Scottie Upshall, who was in the box for overtime after colliding with goalie Ben Bishop at the end of the third period.
“It was 6-1 in penalties. We felt we were working hard, but the calls just weren’t coming to us. You can’t leave [Roberto Luongo] out to dry in a situation like that.’’
With Luongo in goal, Florida had a puncher’s chance against the more skilled Tampa Bay team.
Florida took the initial lead in the second period only to find itself trailing 2-1 in the third.
A goal by Jonathan Huberdeau tied things with Luongo (29 saves) giving the Panthers hope for more than just the one point in the standings they headed home with.
But in overtime, Florida was caught on a quick line change as Bishop corralled the puck near the corner and sent a slick pass to Victor Hedman at center ice. Hedman walked in on Luongo and beat him with the shot, ending Florida’s opening-night win streak at three.
The Panthers lost all four meetings to the Lightning last season and don’t play Tampa Bay again until March 1.
“I thought we played well, but you can’t be in the penalty box seven times against those guys,’’ coach Gerard Gallant said. “They have a great power play and move the puck well. But I really liked our game. We wanted two points but got one. You know what, I’ll take it.’’
The Panthers were held to three shots in the opening period but definitely showed the Lightning they weren’t going to be pushed around.
Despite their early offensive problems, Florida took the first lead of the night when defenseman Erik Gudbranson unleashed a 45-foot bomb that zipped over the glove of Bishop.
Florida didn’t get to enjoy its good tidings for long, however, as Sean Bergenheim was flagged for interference 31 seconds later.
The Panthers couldn’t stop the Lightning power play with Tyler Johnson charging in and popping the puck over Luongo’s glove to tie the score.
Florida fell behind 2-1 early in the third when Ryan Callahan — on a 5-on-3 chance — backhanded a loose puck past Luongo.
But two minutes later, Jonathan Huberdeau got his first goal of the season when he fought down low and jammed a puck past Bishop.
Florida then kept things close and hoped to pull out the win in overtime. The final power-play chance, this one a 4-on-3 advantage for the Lightning, was too much.
“I thought we battled hard, but they had a lot of power plays,’’ Luongo said. “They have a lot of talent, and they’re going to make you pay. It’s a tough way to lose. I wanted to come up with a few more saves to give the boys a chance. We’ll keep working on our game.’’
▪ Upshall was briefly knocked out of the game after he took an elbow to the jaw from Radko Gudas in the second period.
Upshall said he never saw Gudas coming as he was working the puck out of the Florida zone when Gudas came in, lifted his shoulder and collided with Upshall.
Upshall returned to the game after being down on the ice for a while.
There was no penalty for Gudas — who was squirted with Gatorade by Upshall in a game last year and was ejected after going after the Florida bench — although Gudbranson did take an unsportsmanlike penalty for sticking up for Upshall.
“I just have a sore jaw and that’s typical for a head shot,’’ Upshall said. “The ref obviously said he didn’t see it, and that was the explanation.’’
Gallant wouldn’t comment on whether or not he thought Gudas would end up being suspended for the incident.
“He got hit in the head and no one saw it,’’ Gallant said. “What can you do?”