Panthers beat Lightning 5-2 to open 2-game set.

Panthers beat Lightning 5-2 to open 2-game set.

Aaron Ekblad

Aaron Ekblad and Alex Wennberg each had a goal and an assist and the Florida Panthers beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 5-2 on Thursday night.

Frank Vatrano, Carter Verhaeghe and Brett Connolly also scored, and Sergei Bobrovsky turned aside 19 of 21 shots.

Braden Point scored twice for Tampa Bay, and Andrei Vasilevskiy made 24 saves. The Lighting had won six straight.

The teams will meet again Saturday night in Sunrise.

With captain Steven Stamkos out of the lineup with a lower-body injury. Tampa Bay lacked its usual firepower while Florida was highly effective in its offensive end.

Panthers’ coach Joel Quenneville was pleased with the balanced attack among all the lines as Florida outhustled the Lightning to the puck throughout the contest.

“I thought we had a real strong game across the board. I thought all the lines had a lot of speed and won some races,” Quenneville said. “We had a lot of possession zone time. I thought it was an excellent game.”

The Panthers opened the scoring midway through the first period when Vatrano took a feed from Owen Tippett behind the net and put a one-timer past Vasilevskiy. Wennberg made it 2-0 at 8:31 of the second, with Jonathan Huberdeau getting his 300th NHL assist on the play.

Huberdeau is the first player in Panthers’ franchise history to reach the 300-assist milestone.

“It was a great (win), especially against a team that’s so talented and has been good for such a long time,” Vatrano said. “We knew we had to start out on the right foot. We need to play hard-nosed hockey and we did that for a full 60 (minutes).”

Point cut it to 2-1 on a power play at 10:55 of the second, and Ekblad and Verhaeghe countered quickly with goals in a 2:01 span in the period. Point scored again on a power play 54 seconds into the third UFABET.

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