For the third time in six preseason games, the Lightning went to overtime and found a way to win.
Nikita Kucherov scored the winning goal with 55 seconds left in overtime Thursday night to give Tampa Bay a 3-2 victory against Florida in front of an announced crowd of 3,451 at Germain Arena in Estero.
Tyler Johnson had a goal and an assist, Richard Panik had a short-handed goal and Ben Bishop stopped 26 shots as Tampa Bay improved to 5-1 in preseason play.
The Lightning fell behind by two goals on a pair of power-play markers by Jonathan Huberdeau, but they battled back with Johnson’s power-play goal 8:32 into the second period and Panik’s short-handed tally 6:30 into the third.
Though the Lightning have yet to field a full lineup for any preseason game, they have found ways to win games even when they have been outplayed.
“We want to see who we have and who can contribute, and we are getting it from everybody, so it’s been fun to watch,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “But this is the preseason and it gives us a chance to see what we have, and we like what we see. But let’s be honest, we’ve come on the positive side a lot in these games but you can make the argument we didn’t outplay these teams. ... We’ve got a lot of work to do. We’ve gotten some timely goaltending and timely goals when we’ve needed it, and you need good players to do that. But we still have to play much better.”
Ryan Malone said he took Wednesday off for a maintenance day; the team called it an upper-body injury. Either way, Malone sat out Thursday’s game despite being on the game list the day before, and remains listed by the team as being day-to-day with an upper-body injury.
Cooper said Malone, who did not skate with the non-playing group Thursday, was being held out as a precaution.
“He’s in no jeopardy in my eyes of missing regular-season games,” Cooper said. “Now, it’s not the regular season so it’s a much different level of concern, but as of now I’m not concerned.”
Malone played more than 20 minutes and registered seven shots on goal in Saturday’s victory against Florida, and Cooper said the situation did not arise from that game. Malone did practice with the team Monday.
J.T. Brown took Malone’s spot in the lineup.
The annual EA Sports season simulation results, using NHL ’14, were released Thursday and the Lightning finished in sixth place in the newly formed Atlantic Division and 13th overall in the Eastern Conference, outside of the playoffs. According to the simulation, Boston will win the Atlantic followed by Detroit, Montreal and Toronto.
The video game does predict some hardware for the Lightning, however, as Steven Stamkos is predicted to win his third Rocket Richard Trophy with a league-leading 64 goals and finish second in league scoring with 102 points. Rookie LW Jonathan Drouin is the predicted winner of the Calder Trophy as the league’s top rookie, though no point totals were given.
RW Marty St. Louis, despite only 69 games played, finished tied for seventh in league scoring with 86 points.
Nuts and Bolts
Syracuse opened its preseason Thursday with a 5-2 victory at St. John’s in the first of three games against the Ice Caps. ... St. Louis, Nate Thompson and Eric Brewer wore the A as alternate captains. ... Brett Connolly played at center on the top line. ... G Tim Thomas made his Panthers debut, stopping nine of 10 shots in just more than a period and a half of action.