TAMPA BAY, Fla. (FNN SPORTS) – Saturday’s chippy scoreless game led to shoot outs, and put the Panthers up 1-0 to top the Lightning in the preseason finale. Last night’s match became an unexpected neck and neck showdown. The Panthers and the Lightning battled it out just to get on the board, the Panthers with 28 shots on goal to the Lightning’s 26, but the score remained 0-0. In the first period, the Panthers looked to set up and maintain more puck possession than the Lightning, evoking the Tampa’s defensemen’s strengths. Of course, it helps to have one of the best goalies in the net, Vasilevskiy.
The Bolts came out skating a bit harder in the second period. We saw more play setups and shooting, but it seemed as if they were taking too much time to set up for goals. Early in the second period, Cedric Paquette got tangled up with a couple of Panther players, causing an undisclosed injury. Shortly after Paquette left the game, coach Jon Cooper also pulled Tyler Johnson, later saying that he pulled Johnson more for precautionary measures rather than a worrisome injury.
The loss of Paquette and Johnson was unfortunate, but we saw a lot of talent out of Verhaeghe with his skating and puck handling. Coach Cooper said that Verhaeghe has come a long way in the past two years and it’s been impressive to watch. He added that he has good hockey smarts and we caught many glimpses of that in the game. As for Verhaeghe sealing a spot on the roaster, Coach said we’ll see what happens over the next couple days as they make their final cuts. Verhaeghe said that he’s played hard and at this point it’s not up to him if he makes the roster, so we’ll see what takes place soon.
Tampa Bay showed a lot of physicality throughout the game, which will be a force in the coming season. One of the Bolts’ advantage is that their defensive players are not afraid to take offensive opportunities. Defensive player Luke Witkowski has played forward in the last two games, which can bring a versatility to this team. Another defense player stepping into a combination role is Erik Cernak, a physical defensive player who took five shots on goal. He’s not afraid to go for the slap shots on the perimeter.
Cooper said that regardless of the loss that he liked what he saw in the game, his players played very well and now it’s time to finalize the roster over the next couple of days and focus on the home opener. The Lightning will host the Panthers again Thursday night to officially begin the 2019-2020 NHL season.
Stay tune with Florida National News for this season’s Bolts coverage!
Kasey Hudson is a Tampa team contributor for Florida National News. | email@example.com