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FRIDAY PRESEASON GAME 3: Tampa Bay Lightning 5, Florida Panthers 2 FINAL

TAMPA – Like a lot of goalies, Jacob Markstrom wants to stop every puck he sees. It doesn't matter if it's in practice, while warming up against teammates or in a preseason game.

Markstrom is an extreme competitor who isn't very democratic. He wants to win every game he plays in by shutout. 

So, after Friday's 5-2 loss to the Lightning, you can guess the kind of mood Markstrom was in. The Panthers were down 4-0 early in the third period before Jack Skille and Michal Repik scored.

“I don't want to let goals in. That's why I'm in net,'' Markstrom said shortly. “It's always fun to play against the big boys, but it's never fun to lose. I want to win. We didn't do that.''

The Panthers didn't exactly send their top lineup to Tampa, instead saving a good number of their veterans for Saturday night's exhibition against the Lightning in Sunrise. 

Markstrom, like many of his teammates on Friday, will start this season in the minors at Florida's new AHL affiliate in San Antonio.   

And with only three exhibition games left – Jose Theodore will start Saturday with the plan to give him a full game – Markstrom may have seen his last action of the preseason.

Markstrom could be sent to AHL camp in San Antonio on Sunday, although the Panthers may let him remain in NHL camp and join the Rampage in Austin, Texas, following the Panthers' final preseason game in Dallas on Thursday.

Despite the number of goals Markstrom gave up to a Tampa Bay team dressing most of its veterans from last year's run to the Eastern Conference finals, it wasn't a complete wash.

Two of the first four goals Markstrom gave up weren't really his fault as Florida's defense broke down in front covering on a power play. The fourth goal, however, Markstrom would love to get back. 

With the Panthers trailing 3-0 going into the third, Tampa winger Carter Ashton charged up the right side and flung the puck toward the net. The soft shot somehow skipped on the ice and slipped through Markstrom's pads. 

Vinny Lecavalier ended the scoring when he knocked in a rebound with just over a minute left.

“I think there is good and not so much bad to take out of this,'' goalie coach Robb Tallas said. “He needs to get in a 60 game season, see pucks every day. He needs to know that his size is valuable. Out here if you overmove, you're going to be exposed. He's looked good in camp, had a strong camp. There's always room for improvement, but he's going to get game experience. This is going to be a big year for him.''

Florida trailed 1-0 in the opening period after Mattias Ritola grabbed a rebound on a power play, spun around and lofted a backhanded shot over Matthias' shoulder. 
In the second, the Lightning tagged on a pair of goals, the first coming after Florida's Tyson Strachan was serving the second of his roughing penalties within a three-minute span. Ryan Shannon got both of the Lighting goals during the second.

The Panthers got their lone goal of the night with 15:40 left in the game when Jack Skille banged a puck past Dwayne Roloson on Florida's 21st shot of the night.

“Everything is condensed right now,'' Panthers coach Kevin Dineen said. “In the evaluation stage, guys are getting their games. Tonight was [Markstrom's] game. I'm sure he'd like to have a few of those back.''

Skille, acquired from Chicago for Michael Frolik last season, is having a strong camp and is expected to be in the lineup when Florida opens its season Oct. 8 against the host New York Islanders. Strachan was a long shot to crack the Panthers seven-man defensive unit as it was. 

“There's a lot of competition in this training camp,'' said Skille, who missed a good portion of time last year with an ankle injury. “I may not feel pressure, but I want to make a statement in camp. I want to make some noise.''


As surprising player still in the hunt for a roster spot with the Lightning is 21-year-old Cory Conacher. Undrafted out of Canisius College, Conacher is signed to a minor league deal but scored in Tampa's preseason game in Orlando earlier in the week and has seemingly impressed coach Guy Boucher. 

Conacher wasn't highly regarded by scouts mainly because of his size. Conacher is listed as being 6-foot. But he's a lot closer to Martin St. Louis' 5-foot-8. And despite his lack of height, St. Louis has done just fine with the Lightning.

-- The Lightning asked fans to 'pardon our dust' as the $40 million renovation to the 15-year-old arena hasn't been completed. The aggressive work to the arena – which includes new seats throughout the building, a new plaza entrance, the removal of two sections for a stage and gigantic pipe organ as well  – is expected to be finished by the home opener next month. 

The addition fans will notice most is the addition of Tesla coils that will shoot lightning bolts an estimated 25 feet. 

The Lightning and new owner Jeff Vinik financed the entire renovation even though the arena, like BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, is owned by its home county.