Panthers-Lightning Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated October 16, 2011
Five of the last six meetings between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Florida Panthers have gone past regulation, and that's been mostly beneficial to Florida. The Lightning play their home opener at the refurbished St. Pete Times Forum on Monday night as they try to avenge a loss to the Panthers two nights earlier. Florida (2-1-0) welcomed Tampa Bay (1-2-2) for its home opener Saturday and came away with a 3-2 shootout victory. The Panthers have won four of the last five matchups that have gone past regulation, including three of four shootouts. "We'll take that extra point and put it in the bank," Panthers defenseman Ed Jovanovski said. "They're huge right now, these points." It was a frustrating loss for Tampa Bay, which missed all three attempts in the shootout and is 0 for 5 on shootout attempts this season. The Lightning have dropped six of their last seven shootouts. Marc-Andre Bergeron scored both goals Saturday for Tampa Bay, which is eager to get home after losing its last four games. "We're a team that came back a lot last year and we never quit," Bergeron said. "We're a hardworking team and right now I think we're a little off but it's starting to come back and we're seeing it and we're starting to understand a little more that it's not going to be easy." This rematch figures to be an intense affair after Florida's Erik Gudbranson got into his first NHL fight, tangling with Tampa Bay's Steve Downie in the second period. Gudbranson was assessed 19 minutes in penalties while Downie got 17. "I think that was a real shot in the arm for the team," Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. The Panthers have been getting solid goaltending from newcomer Jose Theodore, who made 28 saves Saturday to lower his goals-against average to 1.97. "Let's not forget, Jose Theodore is a good player," Dineen said. "He's proven that over the length of a career. We felt that he was a No. 1 goalie, but for me he really had to earn it. He had a pretty stinky training camp, but since then he's been pretty solid." Tampa Bay has used both Dwayne Roloson and new acquisition Mathieu Garon in goal. Garon has the lower GAA at 2.28 after his 36-save effort Saturday. "I thought we played a solid game," Garon said. "Guys were real sharp and it was nice to see." Steven Stamkos, who was second in the NHL with 45 goals last season, is off to a bit of a slow start. He has one goal through five games after registering five at this point in 2010-11, and he's scored once in his last seven games against the Panthers. Dineen credited a loud home crowd for the strong effort Saturday. He's wary of the response from the Lightning at the St. Pete Times Forum, where a frenzied atmosphere is expected thanks to the addition of 20-foot long 'Tesla coils' that will produce the effects of a lightning bolt. "You have a team that's that talented, they're certainly going to try and take advantage of you," Dineen said.
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