TORONTO — Brayden Point's two first-period goals were more than enough for the Lightning to skate past the Florida Panthers 5-0 in their warm-up game. With the absence of fans, the NHL stepped up in-game production quality in ScotiaBank Arena. Point said the lack of a crowd didn't affect play once the puck dropped.
"I didn’t feel too much difference," Point said. "Sometimes when you’re on the bench and looking around it’s obviously different. There are no fans in the building. But when you’re out there competing against another team you just forget you’re in an empty building."
Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper joked that some habits are hard to break, especially in an empty arena.
"The puck got shot over the glass, hard. As a reactionary, both teams will usually scream 'Heads!' It’s just something teams do knowing the puck’s whizzing into the stands," Cooper said. "It whipped up in the seats between the two benches and both teams yelled 'Heads!' And we’re like, "Who are they yelling that for?' I don’t the LED lights cared too much."
The league also installed a signed piece of Amalie Arena glass along the boards. More than 400 fans wrote messages, and it flew with the team to Toronto.
"That’s a nice touch," Point said. "That’s something cool, that the fans took time to put messages up there. Just awesome to have that support."
Captain Steven Stamkos (lower-body injury) has been practicing, but he didn't dress for the exhibition game. Defenseman Victor Hedman is in Tampa dealing with a "personal matter." He's expected to join the team on Friday.
The Lightning opens round-robin play Monday at 4 p.m. against the Washington Capitals.