Florida Panthers

Florida Panthers see improvement despite preseason ending winless

In the corner: Panthers right wing Shawn Thornton , left, works the puck in front of Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer during Saturday’s game.
In the corner: Panthers right wing Shawn Thornton , left, works the puck in front of Lightning defenseman Eric Brewer during Saturday’s game. AP

Before the Panthers load up and fly off for a few days of training at West Point, they had one more exhibition to play.

Florida ended its preseason sans victory as it lost 4-1 to the Lightning at the recently renamed Amalie Arena.

The Panthers close this chapter of their season and begin preparations for Thursday’s regular-season opener here against this same Lightning team.

Tampa Bay won both preseason contests against Florida and outscored the Panthers 7-1 in the process.

The Panthers end the preseason 0-4-2; Tampa Bay went 5-1.

“I wanted to win the game [Saturday]. We really competed 5on5 and were the better team there, I thought,” first-year Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “We battled hard and there were a lot of good things going so it’s tough to lose 4-1. We came in with the mind-set that we were going to win and had the chances. I saw a lot of good things.”

Saturday started off well enough for the Panthers as they scored the opening goal 3:21 in when Aleksander Barkov deflected a Brian Campbell shot that got behind Tampa Bay goalie Ben Bishop.

It was pretty much all Tampa Bay after that.

The Lightning scored three goals to close the first period, with Nikita Kucherov tying the score off a Tomas Kopecky turnover two minutes after Barkov scored.

Steven Stamkos and J.T. Brown scored the other two goals of the first period. Anton Stralman made it 4-1 with a hard slap shot early in the second period.

Despite the lopsided score, the Panthers had their moments and outshot the Lightning 37-28. Bishop, the Lightning’s starter, made 36 saves.

Florida rested Roberto Luongo in the preseason finale and went with backup Al Montoya.

“You want to play well going into the regular season and I do think [Saturday] was a step in the right direction,” defenseman Willie Mitchell said. “We competed better, played better. The bottom line is wins and losses in this league.”

▪ General manager Dale Tallon said he has reached out to the agent for free agent defenseman Shane O’Brien and the two sides are negotiating.

On Saturday, O’Brien was in the lineup with Colby Robak — who would take the seventh defenseman spot if O’Brien isn’t signed — scratched along with Erik Gudbranson, Jimmy Hayes and Dave Bolland.

O’Brien played in four of Florida’s six preseason games.

“We spoke [Saturday] and plan on speaking again Sunday morning,” Tallon said.

Tallon also said he was in “serious talks” with both Chicago and Boston before they traded defensemen Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, respectively, to the Islanders.

▪ The Panthers faced former Florida defenseman Jason Garrison for the first time as a member of the Lightning.

Garrison spent four seasons with the Panthers before leaving as a free agent following the 2011-12 season. Garrison was acquired by the Lightning from Vancouver for a second-round draft pick in June.

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