The Panthers opened their 2017 preseason schedule with a split-squad doubleheader against the Predators in Nashville on Tuesday, earning a win in game 1 and an overtime loss in game 2.
After three days of intense practices and an intra-squad scrimmage at the Ice Den on Monday, the Panthers finally got some real game action in.
The first game of the doubleheader featured a few highly-anticipated Panther debuts, including those of 2017 draft pick Owen Tippett and free-agent signing Henrik Haapala.
Haapala opened the scoring with a laser beam from the low slot to finish off a tic-tac-toe passing play on the man-advantage for the first goal of the Panthers’ preseason.
In the 3rd period, Tippett unleashed a wrist shot from inside the blue-line which created a rebound for Mike Matheson to chip into the net for the eventual game-winner.
A standout performance from free-agent signing and former Panthers draft pick Connor Brickley included two goals and an assist en route to a 5-3 win.
“It’s cool [to have] an all new coaching staff,” said Brickley after the win. “I hope what they say is true that everyone has a fresh start. Obviously I’m just trying to come in here and trying to earn a job and just showcase my skills.”
Denis Malgin, who centered the Panthers’ top line in game 1, notched an empty-netter to seal the deal with 29 seconds remaining in the 3rd.
James Reimer stopped all 15 shots he faced through a through about 29 minutes of work before leaving the game halfway through in favor of Finnish netminder Harri Sateri, who allowed 3 goals on 19 shots the rest of the way.
“I felt pretty good,” said Reimer. “You never know how you’re gonna feel in exhibition, you’re just trying to get back into it, there’s a little bit of rust. “It’s just a matter of getting back into it and just trying to feel the puck, and feel the pace of the game, and get ready for the season.”
In game 2, newly-signed Evgenii Dadonov skated on the top line as the Panthers managed just two goals in what was certainly a tighter matchup.
Vincent Trocheck sent a wrist shot five-hole on Pekka Rinne to give the Panthers the early lead in the opening frame before Nashville scored twice in the 2nd period to regain the momentum.
Trocheck left the game after suffering an apparent upper-body injury late in 1st period and did not return. Head coach Bob Boughner didn’t appear concerned, but stated he’d be reevaluated on Wednesday.
The score became tied at two goals a piece after a failed clearing attempt by Anders Lindback, who entered the game to replace Rinne 31 minutes into the game, rebounded off Jared McCann and into the Predators’ net.
“It feels good,” said McCann of his wacky game-tying goal. “It would’ve been nice to get the win but I felt we battled and came from behind there which is good.”
The game headed to overtime where Miikka Salomaki corralled a loose puck and put it past an unprepared Sam Montembeault.
The 20-year old Montembeault made 7 stops on 10 shots in relief of starter Roberto Luongo who exited after a period and a half of action after turning aside all 8 shots he faced.
“It was a good first test, I felt pretty good out there,” said Luongo, who’s been hard at work all summer getting his hip back in shape after missing the final two months of the 2016-17 season. “I didn’t feel like I was a step slow or anything like that.”
The two teams combined for 25 power plays over the two games played as referees began a league-wide crackdown on slashing and hooking calls as well as face-off violations.
“We actually had a conversation with the refs before the game,” said Mike Matheson. “They kind of warned us, not necessarily about the new rules, but how they were gonna be implementing the rules that were already in existence.”
Florida converted twice on four opportunities in game 1 and just twice on nine chances in game 2 while Nashville scored only once on 12 total power plays.
“What we’re gonna do is [Wednesday] when we get some sleep tonight and tomorrow, we’re gonna get up and we’re gonna watch [the games],” said head coach Bob Boughner. “We pulled a lot already on the bench of things we liked and what we didn’t like. We got a lot of good video tonight to break down and use in our teaching.”
The preseason continues for the Panthers with a 4:00 PM game in Tampa against the Lightning on Sunday, but they’ll be back home before that for practices on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday in Coral Springs.
Recently-acquired Jamie McGinn is expected to be in attendance at training camp for the first time on Thursday.