Panthers welcome Lightning in matchup of talented offenses

Sports
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Two of the top offenses in the NHL will meet on Tuesday night when the Tampa Bay Lightning visit the Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.

The Lightning, second in the league in goals per game (3.64), are powered by winger Nikita Kucherov (team-high 31 points), defenseman Victor Hedman (27 points) and center Steven Stamkos (26).

“Our team is built to continue to press and use our speed,” Stamkos told reporters before he scored Tampa Bay’s only goal in the Lightning’s 5-1 loss to the visiting New York Islanders on Monday night. “Then the skill takes over.”

Meanwhile, Florida, which has rested since a 5-1 win over the visiting San Jose Sharks on Sunday, is fourth in the league in goals per game (3.52).

The Panthers are led by center Aleksander Barkov and winger Jonathan Huberdeau, each with 36 points. They are both on track to reach 100 points for the first times in their careers. Defenseman Keith Yandle is third on the Panthers with 26 points.

Florida and Tampa Bay have not met since the first two games of the season, when the Lightning won at home 5-2 in the season opener and the Panthers won the rematch 4-3 two days later in Sunrise.

If that home-ice mini trend holds true on Tuesday, it would bode well for the Panthers.

“We’ve got to take advantage of being at home,” Huberdeau told reporters. “We’re really starting to play some good hockey at home.”

Indeed, the Panthers are 3-1-0 so far on this nine-game homestand, the longest in franchise history.

The Panthers are 9-4-2 at home this season. Tampa Bay is 7-5-2 on the road.

Then again, perhaps a road trip is just what the Lightning need right now. Tampa Bay is 1-4-0 in its past five home games.

Stamkos has 10 goals this season, including three in his past two games. However, Hedman had a goal taken away on Monday when a video challenge revealed that teammate Anthony Cirelli was offside. In addition, Tampa Bay went 0-for-3 on its power play.

Lightning backup goalie Curtis McElhinney took the loss on Monday, and his record fell to 3-3-2.

It is likely the Lightning’s starting goalie Tuesday will be Andre Vasilevskiy, the 25-year-old Russian who has led the NHL with 39 wins last season after tying for the lead with 44 victories in 2017-18.

This season, Vasilevskiy is 11-8-1 with a 2.91 goals-against average and a .907 save percentage.

Florida is expected to start its own Russian, 31-year-old Sergei Bobrovsky, who won two straight games while stopping 63 out of 65 shots faced last weekend.

Bobrovsky, who is 11-6-4 with a 3.24 GAA and an .893 save percentage, was surely grateful to have a day off on Monday after being in goal for two games in two nights against the Columbus Blue Jackets and the Sharks.

“Physically, you feel a little bit fatigued,” Bobrovsky said, “but we stood together at the right time.”

It was the first time all season that the Panthers allowed fewer than two goals in consecutive games, and Florida will be looking for more quality defense on Tuesday to hold off the high-powered Lightning.

–Field Level Media

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