SUNRISE — Lightning wing J.T. Brown believes it is important to back up what you're talking about with action.
That's partly why Brown, 27, on Saturday became the first NHL player this season to make a silent protest during the national anthem before a regular-season game. Brown, one of about 30 black players in the NHL, raised a closed right fist while on the bench before the game against the Panthers. He also did it before a preseason game against the Panthers at the BB&T Center, saying he wanted to bring awareness to police brutality against minorities and racial inequality.
"I know there's going to be negative backlash," Brown said after the game. "But in my heart, I know I did what was right."
Brown said recently that he consulted with his family and several members of the active military about protesting. He decided he wouldn't kneel or sit during the anthem, like about 250 NFL players have done in the first few weeks of their season.
"I've been able to see both sides, but I still wanted to show my support for the root of the protest, talking about police brutality and inequality," Brown said. "Those are issues that we need to be talking about."
Brown gave coaches and teammates a head's up about his protest Saturday. Captain Steven Stamkos and others have said they would support a teammate's protest. The Lightning released a statement saying it celebrates uniting as a community before every game "paying homage to a flag that is representative of our nation and those who have sacrificed" but it also respects its players and the choices they make about social and political issues.
Brown is active in the community, serving as a mentor to at-risk kids in the team's "Guide the Thunder" program. He also donated $1,500 toward removing a Confederate statue from downtown Tampa.
When D Mikhail Sergachev tried to carry the puck out from behind his net early in Friday's second period, he tried to shake Florida's Colton Sceviour with a familiar move.
"In juniors, I'd slow down, he'd slow down, and then I'd start skating," Sergachev said. "(Sceviour) didn't slow down."
Sceviour stripped the puck from Sergachev for a great scoring chance, drawing a hooking penalty from the 19-year-old rookie. "Those are mistakes that 30-year-olds make," coach Jon Cooper said.
But it was a mistake Sergachev learned from in an otherwise impressive Lightning debut. He racked up a team-high-matching four shots in 16 minutes of ice time. Sergachev felt so comfortable because Lightning coaches encouraged him to play his game.
"(Cooper) talked to me and said, 'We don't care if you make mistakes. It's just if you work hard or not,' " Sergachev said. "I'm not afraid to make mistakes, because if you are, you make a lot of them. I just try to play my game, and if I have a chance to create something, I try to."
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G Andrei Vasilevskiy made his second straight start. … D Jake Dotchin, a surprise scratch Friday, was back in the lineup. D Slater Koekkoek was scratched again, as were D Andrej Sustr and F Gabriel Dumont.