SUNRISE — Panthers RW Scottie Upshall denied he squirted Lightning rookie D Radko Gudas with water in the second period of Sunday's game.
It was blue Gatorade, he said, laughing.
In response, Gudas angrily broke his stick over the top of the boards in front of the Florida bench. For that he got two minutes for slashing, a 10-minute misconduct and a game misconduct that forced Tampa Bay to play with just five defensemen for the final 27:09 of the 4-3 shootout win.
"He overreacted a bit," Upshall said. "He's a guy who plays a bit on the edge. He plays hard, and he was fired up."
"Savvy move on their part," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "They end up knocking a defenseman out of the game for us."
Gudas — automatically fined $200 by the league and eligible for supplemental discipline — declined to comment.
It began when Gudas missed a body check at the Panthers' blue line and fell to the ice in front of the Florida bench. That is when Upshall gave a squirt.
"I think he was embarrassed he fell," Upshall said. "Then he slashed his stick. You would think it was the end of the world. He was freaked out."
"That was a first," Lightning C Steven Stamkos said. "That's a tough call to lose a guy for slashing the boards. But it was a reactionary thing with 'Gudes.' I thought maybe if he gets a 10, maybe the guy who squirts the bottle gets 10."
Instead, Upshall got two minutes for unsportsmanlike conduct.
"It's interpretation of the ref," said Cooper, who when the call was made had an extended talk with referee Tim Peel. "He's probably looking at the game and saying he doesn't want something to escalate, and I completely understand that. He's doing his job. In my opinion, penalty, yes. Ten (minutes), I probably could have … lived with it. It's tough to eject a guy for that."
Think about it, Cooper said: "If I pulled out a Gatorade bottle and squirted you right now, I don't think you would be happy about it. These guys are competitors. If something is going to happen, naturally our guy is going to react."
LINE DANCING: C Tyler Johnson, RW Richard Panik and Ondrej Palat are back together.
The line, one of the best in the AHL the past two seasons, gained much acclaim for winning a job out of training camp but was broken up in the third game of the season when Panik was shifted to a line with C Valtteri Filppula and Alex Killorn.
But midway in the third period of Saturday's 3-2 victory over the Sabres, Cooper reunited Panik with Johnson and Palat. The result: Palat's winning goal with 4:05 left with Johnson's assist.
"Stuff like that makes the coach look really good," Cooper said, laughing. "Ultimately, it's not about that. Honestly, we had one goal in 50-whatever minutes. We needed to shake things up."
ODDS AND ENDS: Eight wins are a Lightning record for October. … RW Marty St. Louis' second-period holding penalty was his first infraction of the season. … G Anders Lindback got his first win in his third start.