The Tampa Bay Lightning were looking to get off to a quick start in their own building for the first time this year, and for the most part, they did just that. After a shaky first period, the Lightning put some nerves behind them and dominated the rest of the game, beating the Florida Panthers by a final score of 4-1.
Powered by three second-period goals, Tampa Bay put the finishing touches on an impressive preseason. With the win, the team finished the preseason with a record of 4-1-1.
Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier opened the scoring in the second period, taking a pass from Marty St. Louis to beat Florida goaltender Jacob Markstrom. Steven Stamkos put the Lightning ahead for good, getting off a shot that appeared to hit the post, but was ruled a goal. Stamkos scored again on the power play, from his patented spot in the left circle, to give the Lightning a two-goal lead before Sean Bergenheim finished off the scoring in the third.
Mike Smith has his second strong outing in consecutive days, stopping 20 of 21 shots.
"I feel pretty good" Smith said. "Obviously the team's changed, and we are playing pretty good defensively and if that continues, I just have to focus on stopping the puck when we break down and not giving up very many scoring chances that makes it easy on the goaltenders."
Smith also thinks that there is some significance to the on-ice success the Lightning has achieved.
"It can be a good confidence boost for the team," he said. "I think we are gelling here as a group and it's a work in progress of what the coach is asking us to do. We have to keep pushing forward; we haven't won anything yet so we just have to keep our minds focused on the job at hand."
While the end result may look good on paper, head coach Guy Boucher was not satisfied.
"We are far from where we want to be, but we are closer to it, obviously," Boucher said. "We did some good stuff tonight but there's things that we can prevent. I wasn't happy about the number of shots against; I know it was only 21 but we can do better than that."
As for the looming player cuts, Boucher has too much information to sort through to make the final decisions.
"I saw too much, I saw a lot of good things from all of them, that's where its difficult, especially comparing guys with different styles. It's hard to figure out which one's better, that one's better at this, that one is better at that. It's more of a chemistry thing right now."
And now, after another week of practice, it's time to get things going for real.
Opening night 2010
Atlanta Thrashers @ Tampa Bay Lightning
When: Saturday, October 9th 2010 7:30pm
TV/Radio: SunSports, Radio: TBA