Lightning win home opener against the Panthers, 5-3

Lightning strikes a win against the Panthers Friday night.

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click to enlarge Ondrej Palat celebrates as he scores the first goal of the season. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Ondrej Palat celebrates as he scores the first goal of the season.

A quarter of a century ago, one man's dream became a reality. On October 7, 1992, the journey began for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Phil Esposito and his brother Tony brought hockey to Tampa Bay. The Bolts first game was played at the Florida State Fairgrounds' Expo Hall, which only held 11,000 people. 

click to enlarge Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley sneaks a goal by Vasilevskiy. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Florida Panthers' Connor Brickley sneaks a goal by Vasilevskiy.

Since that game, the Lightning have won a Stanley Cup, made it to the playoffs nine times and, on Oct. 6, started the 2017-18 season off with a bang: Ondrej Palat scored the first and final goal of the night. In between, the game teetered back and forth as the sold-out crowd rumbled like — well, thunder, actually, throughout the arena. The two teams have faced each other 126 times — the Lightning has won 52 times; the Panthers, 51.

click to enlarge Kucherov scores his first goal of the season, making it 4-2,  Lightning. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Kucherov scores his first goal of the season, making it 4-2, Lightning.

The Bolts have won their past six home openers with a 16-7-0 record, the best winning percentage in the NHL. 

click to enlarge Tensions rise as the game approaches its final minutes. - 9928 The puck bounces out of the empty net after Palat scores the final goal of the game. - Nicole Abbett
Nicole Abbett
Tensions rise as the game approaches its final minutes.9928 The puck bounces out of the empty net after Palat scores the final goal of the game.

The Lightning will face the Florida Panthers again in the Panthers’ home opener Oct. 7 at BB&T Arena in Sunrise. The Bolts play the Washington Capitals at Amalie on Oct. 9 night, then face Stanley Cup champs, the Pittsburgh Penguins, on Oct. 12.

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