Florida Panthers vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Pick & Prediction MARCH 16th 2024

The Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning will meet Saturday in Sunrise, Fla., as part of their continuing battle to establish pecking order among the Sunshine State’s NHL powers.

The Lightning, who have won two Stanley Cup titles over the past four years and three in total, finished last season six points ahead of the Panthers in the Atlantic Division standings.

The Panthers — who have yet to win a Stanley Cup title — made it to the finals of the Stanley Cup last year. Entering Saturday’s game, they are 18 points ahead of the Lightning.

Florida has won four straight games in its rivalry with Tampa Bay. That win streak includes a rousing 9-2 Panthers victory in their most recent matchup Feb. 17.

“Tampa Bay is probably our biggest rival in the league,” Panthers forward Sam Bennett said after that rout. “Anytime you can go into their building and put a game on like that, it feels good.”

On Saturday, however, the Panthers will be looking for a bounce-back after losing 4-0 to the host Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday night. Bennett missed the game due to an undisclosed injury, his first missed contest since November.

Since Jan. 19, and a span of 23 games, the Panthers have been held to less than three goals just four times — twice by Carolina and twice by the Philadelphia Flyers.

“Just learn from it,” Panthers star forward Sam Reinhart said after Thursday’s loss. “There are certainly things we can adjust and do better.”

Tampa Bay is led by Jon Cooper, who has won two Stanley Cup titles and is the longest-tenured coach in the NHL, having joined the Lightning in 2013.

The Lightning have won two straight games, both in impressive fashion. They pounded the Philadelphia Flyers 7-0 on Saturday and rallied in the third period to defeat the first-place New York Rangers 6-3 on Thursday.

Brayden Point had three goals and three assists in a dominant performance against the Rangers.

“Just one of those nights where everything kind of seems to work out,” Point said.

Now the Lightning embark on a five-game road trip. The first game is a short trip in state. After that, the Lightning will swing out west to Las Vegas, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim.

The key players for Tampa Bay are forwards Nikita Kucherov, Point and Steven Stamkos as well as defenseman Victor Hedman and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.

For the Panthers, their “Big Five” are forwards Reinhart, Matthew Tkachuk, Carter Verhaeghe and Aleksander Barkov as well as goalie Sergei Bobrovsky.

Kucherov entered Friday ranked tied for second in the NHL with 73 assists. He also leads the Lightning in goals (39) and points (112).

Point is second on the Lightning in goals (36) and points (73). Stamkos is a seven-time All-Star. Hedman is a four-time All-Star, and Vasilevskiy is a five-time All-Star.

For the Panthers, Reinhart entered Friday tied for second in the NHL with 46 goals. He also leads the team with 77 points.

Tkachuk leads Florida with 53 assists, and Barkov and Verhaeghe are tied for third on the Panthers with 66 points each. Bobrovsky leads Eastern Conference goalies with 32 wins.

–Field Level Media

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