For the Panthers, tonight’s contest marks the club’s home opener at BankAtlantic Center. Florida began the season on a three-game road trip and earned its first win of the season in the finale of the swing at Calgary.
The Lightning are off to a 3-0 start for the first time since the 2007-08 season. The only time the club won four in a row to begin a campaign was in their Stanley Cup-winning year of 2003-04, when they Bolts went 6-0.
Tampa Bay’s most recent victory came Thursday night against the defending Eastern Conference champions, as the Lightning downed Philadelphia, 3-2, at Wells Fargo Center in what was longtime Flyer Simon Gagne’s return to the City of Brotherly Love.
Pavel Kubina netted the game-winning score early in the third period to back 24 saves from Dan Ellis in the win.
Steven Stamkos added a goal and Dominic Moore also lit the lamp for the Lightning. Stamkos, who tied for the NHL lead with 51 goals a year ago, already has four markers in three games this season.
“It is fun to be around winning hockey,” said Stamkos. “It’s something we have not done much of over the last couple of years, but it’s contagious and it feels good.”
Gagne, who played in Philadelphia from 1999-2010 before being dealt to Tampa this summer, recorded one shot in just over 19 minutes of ice time. The Flyers also played a video tribute to Gagne during a break in action in the first period.
“It was actually a nice gift from the Flyers,” Gagne said after the game. “The ovation from the fans was great. Even in the warm-up when I jumped on the ice I got some cheers from the fans. It was a tough one to go through, a lot of emotions to go through. That video was something.”
Following tonight’s tilt the Lightning will return to Tampa for a two-game homestand. The Bolts will host Dallas on Monday and the New York Islanders on Thursday.
The Panthers lost their first two games of the year before posting a 3-0 win over the Flames on Thursday. Radek Dvorak scored twice in the game’s first 7 1/2 minutes and Tomas Vokoun stopped 27 shots for his 39th career shutout.
Shawn Matthias also scored and Marty Reasoner added two assists for the Panthers, who lost at Edmonton and Vancouver in their first two games of the season.
“I thought we had a great road trip,” said Panthers center Mike Santorelli. “We kept the mind-set the same as the first two games – work hard, use our speed and get pucks to the net.”
Tonight marks the first of three straight on home ice for the Panthers, who were just 16-16-9 at BankAtlantic Center last season.
Tampa and Florida split six meetings last season and each club has six victories in the last 12 encounters overall. The Lightning have won three of their last five at the Panthers’ home arena, but the Bolts have also dropped four out of seven in south Florida .
10/16 11:05:01 ET