SUNRISE — It was a game you'd expect from a pair of rivals, even if the pair are new to this rivalry thing. The scoring chances? Many. The goalies? Outstanding.
A late mistake? Costly.
Panthers forward Reilly Smith stole the puck from Victor Hedman at the blue line and blasted a shot past Ben Bishop with less than five minutes remaining for the game winner Monday as the Panthers beat the Lightning 3-1 at BB&T Center.
"Plays happened. It can't happen at that point of the game," Hedman said. "I didn't really see him at the last second, but at the same time you got to get rid of the puck quicker, but you learn from it."
The Lightning had the momentum in the third period. The Panthers didn't get a shot on goal until nearly the nine-minute mark.
Ondrej Palat took advantage of a turnover behind the Panthers net and poked a loose puck past goalie Roberto Luongo to tie the score at 1 just 1 minute, 15 seconds into the final period.
From there, the Lightning took control, peppering Luongo with shot after shot, only to be turned away.
"It came down to who made the last error," Bishop said. "Sometimes they go your way. Sometimes they didn't."
Hedman had the puck in the defensive zone and was beginning to skate up ice when he was surprised by Smith. As the last man on defense, the turnover left nothing but ice between Smith and Bishop.
"He's a good shooter. That's why he got paid this summer," Bishop said. "Obviously I wanted to make the save, but he's got a good shot."
Once again the Lightning (7-5-1) fell behind early, this time 3:10 into the game when Jonathan Marchessault scored with Braydon Coburn in the penalty box for a high stick. The former Lightning player fired from just above the left faceoff circle. The puck deflected off Hedman and past Bishop.
Bishop finished with 29 saves. Luongo stopped 34 of 35 shots.
Derek MacKenzie scored into an open net for the final goal of the night for the Panthers (6-6-1).
"I thought we played well enough to win the game. That was it," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. "Just in the end, regardless of how momentum is going or how well you think you're playing, it's how do you manage the puck in the last five minutes of the game. That's what it comes down to, and we did not manage it well, and it ended up in the back of the net. And in a game where you think you'll get one (point) out of maybe two, we get none and that's too bad."
Cooper said he wasn't going to put the blame on Headman.
"His pluses are more than his minuses," the coach said.
Hedman acknowledged his mistake, but said he wasn't going to let it fester.
"You can't do that late in the game," Hedman said. "Doesn't matter if you're 18, 25 or 30 years old, you got to learn. The same goes for me. You can't beat yourself up too much, because in this league games come very quickly. You learn from it and look forward to the next game."
First Period—1, Florida, Marchessault 7 (Yandle, Barkov), 3:10 (pp). Penalties—Coburn, TB, (high sticking), 2:28; Mackenzie, FLA, (hooking), 8:40; Smith, FLA, (tripping), 9:54; Stamkos, TB, (hooking), 20:00.
Second Period—None. Penalties—Ekblad, FLA, (slashing), 7:01; Killorn, TB, (slashing), 7:01; Brown, TB, (delay of game), 15:03.
Third Period—2, Tampa Bay, Palat 2, 1:15. 3, Florida, Smith 3, 15:32. 4, Florida, Mackenzie 1 (Yandle), 19:24. Penalties—None. Shots on Goal—Tampa Bay 12-11-12—35. Florida 10-14-8—32. Power-play opportunities—Tampa Bay 0 of 3; Florida 1 of 3. Goalies—Tampa Bay, Bishop 5-4-0 (31 shots-29 saves). Florida, Luongo 4-5-0 (35-34). A—11,703 (17,040). T—2:28.