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Hoffman hat trick leads Panthers over Lightning

October 6, 2019
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Florida Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman (68) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
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Florida Panthers left wing Mike Hoffman (68) celebrates after scoring a goal during the second period of the team's NHL hockey game against the Tampa Bay Lightning, Saturday, Oct. 5, 2019, in Sunrise, Fla. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) — The Panthers beat their Florida rivals for the first time in nearly two years.

Mike Hoffman had his second career hat trick to help Florida beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Saturday night to split an opening home-and-home series.

Noel Acciari also scored and Sergei Bobrovsky made 29 saves for his first victory with the Panthers. Joel Quenneville also won for first time as coach of the Panthers. On Thursday night in Tampa, the Lightning beat the Panthers 5-2.

The win was the first for the Panthers in eight games against the Lightning since a 5-4 victory on Oct. 7, 2017.

“This one was big tonight,” Hoffman said. “Obviously, you didn’t want to lose both to Tampa right off the start.”

Jonathan Huberdeau and Keith Yandle each had assists on Hoffman’s first two goals, both on the power play.

“Our power play was nice to get going,” Hoffman said. “You lick your chops when you get those opportunities.”

Steven Stamkos, Mathieu Joseph and Gemel Smith scored for the Lightning. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 24 shots.

“We took three (penalties) in a row there and they capitalized on two of them, obviously swung the momentum of the game,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.

Hoffman’s third goal came when he redirected a shot from Aaron Ekblad into the net 17 seconds into the third period to give the Panthers a 4-1 lead. Hoffman’s last hat trick was on Nov, 29, 2016, against Buffalo.

The Lightning made a surge in the third period.

Stamkos closed the Lightning to 4-2 on a one-timer from the left circle that beat Bobrovsky at 6:40 of the third. Joseph made the score 4-3 on his goal with 4:19 left in the third.

“We had the ice tilted. It’s tough to get three,” Cooper said. “We got two; we couldn’t get three.”

The Panthers avoided the slow start that plagued them last season, when they went 0-2-2 in their first four games.

“We did some good things and had some really good stretches in the game,” Quenneville said. “At the end, was a good lesson for us to have some composure in that situation.”

The Panthers scored three goals in the second period, including two power-play goals by Hoffman.

He gave the Panthers a 1-0 lead on his first goal at 9:39. Hoffman’s wrist shot from the right circle beat Vasilevskiy in the left corner. Hoffman’s second goal came 1:26 later when his shot from almost the same spot in the right circle got in at 11:05 to make the score 2-0.

The Panthers stretched their lead to 3-0 on Acciari’s goal, his first with the Panthers. Acciari corralled the puck in front of the crease and backhanded it in at 12:32.

Trailing 3-0, the Lightning closed to 3-1 on the goal by Smith, who nudged in a puck sliding loose in the crease at 16:23 of the second.

NOTES: Panthers defenseman MacKenzie Weegar returned after leaving Thursday’s game midway through the third period with an upper-body injury. ... The game was the first of a six-game road trip for the Lightning.

UP NEXT:

Lightning: Visit the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday.

Panthers: Host the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday.

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