Florida Panthers

Same opening script, different ending for Panthers

Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) tries to score while Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game at the BB&T Center on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 in Sunrise.
Florida Panthers left wing Jonathan Huberdeau (11) tries to score while Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Braydon Coburn (55) defends during the first period of an NHL hockey game at the BB&T Center on Saturday, Oct. 7, 2017 in Sunrise. mocner@miamiherald.com

For the Panthers, it was a scenario they couldn’t bear repeating.

And yet, the storyline in the Panthers’ home opener Saturday at BB&T Center was developing along the same unpleasant lines as the one from the night before.

In that one, the Tampa Bay Lightning opened up a quick, two-goal lead before fending off the Panthers for the eventual win. Saturday’s script was a near carbon copy of Friday’s.

Only the ending was different.

Despite allowing two goals within the first five minutes, the Panthers recovered for a 5-4 victory that made good on head coach Bob Boughner’s pledge to make South Florida an unsavory place for opponents.

“We talked about what kind of team we wanted to be at home,” Boughner told reporters before the Panthers hit the home ice for the first time Saturday. “We want to make this a tough team, make this a tough building to win in, and it’s got to start tonight.”

It almost didn’t turn out that way. It certainly didn’t start like it.

Fans were still finding their way to their seats when Nikita Kucherov shot one past James Reimer for a 1-0 Lightning lead. Barely more than a minute later, it became 2-0 on Vladislav Namestnikov’s goal.

“Getting down 2-0 right away was definitely digging a hole once again,” Boughner said.

The Panthers eventually tied it on goals from Evgenii Dadonov and Nick Bjugstad. But the Lightning regained the lead later in the period and appeared to be on their way to their second victory over the Panthers in as many nights despite being clearly outplayed.

Then came a three-goal flurry by the Panthers, and so much for history repeating itself, so soon and so coldly. By the Panthers’ own calculations, they had double the scoring chances as the Lightning in Friday’s setback.

That domination on the offensive end got them nowhere.

On Saturday, they outshot Tampa Bay 24-8 in the first period, 16-7 in the second and emerged on top in the final margin, 48-30.

“We generated a lot of offense. You saw the shots on the board,” Bjugstad said. “But we never got frustrated.”

Not until the Panthers got going in the third, though, did any of it count for much.

But Colton Sceviour launched the first salvo, finding the net with his first goal to make it 3-3. Then, over the next 2 1/2 minutes, Jared McCann and Vincent Trocheck followed suit with goals of their own.

“I think we learned a lesson last night,” Trocheck said. “We stayed a little more even keeled tonight.”

The Panthers had to kill penalties at the end to preserve the win.

“Even at the end, when we had to kill off some penalties, there were guys diving face first, sacrificing their bodies, and those are all great signs,” Boughner said.

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