Season Series -- This is the first of six games between the two Florida clubs. The Panthers and the Lightning split their six-game series last season. Their last two games, a home-and-home series, happened to be the last two games in the regular season in both the team's schedules. Tampa Bay won both -- a 4-3 shootout victory on April 10 and a 3-1 win on April 11.
Big story -- The Lightning have had a great start to their season, going undefeated with a 3-0 record. It's a far cry from last season's start when their record was the opposite at 0-3. They've defeated the Thrashers in their home opener, the Canadiens in Montreal's home opener and the defending Eastern Conference champion Philadelphia Flyers on the road. The Panthers meanwhile, just picked up their first victory of the season on Thursday after two disappointing losses where they outshot their opponents 70-48.
Lightning -- Back-to-back road games seemed to be no problem for the Lightning, as the Bolts followed their overtime win in Montreal on Wednesday with a 3-2 victory over the Flyers the following night. Steven Stamkos opened the night’s scoring, while Dominic Moore scored his second of the season. Pavel Kubina tallied the eventual game-winner at the beginning of the third period.
Dan Ellis played his first career game for Tampa and finished the night with 24 saves.
Thursday also marked the return of Simon Gagne to Philadelphia after he was traded to the Lightning this summer.
"The first 20 minutes were really hard," said Gagne, who was a Flyer for 10 seasons. "I was tearing up."
Panthers --Radek Dvorak scored twice in the first period on Thursday to lead Florida to a 3-0 win over the Flames. Both goals were set up by Marty Reasoner, who also tallied two goals Oct. 10 against the Oilers. Tomas Vokoun made 27 saves for his 39th career shutout, while Shawn Matthias also found the back of the net.
"This is my fourth year in Florida and this is one of the best games I've seen us play," Vokoun said. "We were playing exactly how we wanted and it was a great effort from everybody."
Who's Hot -- Reasoner’s 4 points in three games puts the center in the lead among the Panthers. For the Lightning, Stamkos has scored goals in all three of Tampa's wins and is second in the League with 6 points.
Injury Report -- Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund is still out with right knee inflammation, while Panthers right wing Byron Bitz is on the injured reserved with a groin injury.
Stat Pack -- Stamkos had 3 goals in the home-and-home series against the Panthers at the end of last season, giving him 51 for the season and a tie with Sidney Crosby for the Rocket Richard Trophy. If the 20-year-old scores against Florida on Saturday he will tie a franchise record with goals in eight-straight games.
Puck drop -- "It's nice to get the first win out of the way, it's always the toughest one," Matthias said. "Now we can sleep well tonight."