Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Bruins storm Lightning for, 5-2, win on the road

David Pastrnak scored a pair of quick goals before Brad Marchand added a pair of his own later in a, 5-2, win for the Boston Bruins against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Amalie Arena on Saturday night.

Linus Ullmark (10-5-0, 2.54 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 15 games played) stopped 27 out of 29 shots faced for a .931 save percentage in the win for Boston.

Tampa netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy (19-6-3, 2.23 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in 28 games played), made 25 saves on 29 shots against in the loss.

The Bruins improved to 18-11-2 (38 points) overall and remain in command of 4th place of the Atlantic Division (nine points behind the Toronto Maple Leafs for 3rd place).

Meanwhile, the Lightning fell to 23-9-5 (51 points) and slipped to 2nd place in the Atlantic by virtue of a tiebreaker, having sustained fewer regulation wins (15) than the Florida Panthers (17).

The B’s also improved to 1-0-1 against the Bolts this season with two games remaining in their regular season series (March 24th @ TD Garden and April 8th at Amalie Arena).

Bruce Cassidy told reporters prior to the game that Charlie McAvoy (lower body) would be a game-time decision and the NESN broadcast learned during warmup that if McAvoy wasn’t good enough to suit up, then Urho Vaakanainen would be making his season debut alongside Matt Grzelcyk on the first pairing.

And that’s exactly what happened as McAvoy missed his third game this season due to injury or illness, joining Jakub Zboril (right ACL), Karson Kuhlman (COVID-19 protocol), Jake DeBrusk (COVID-19 protocol) and Tomáš Nosek (COVID-19 protocol) on the list of players out of the lineup for Boston.

Cassidy made no changes to among his forwards from Thursday night’s, 3-2, loss against the Minnesota Wild.

John Moore joined Steven Fogarty and Troy Grosenick on Boston’s taxi squad on Saturday with goaltender, Tuukka Rask, expected to join the team on an NHL contract next week.

Taylor Hall setup Pastrnak (10) with a breakout pass about a minute into the action as No. 88 in black and gold entered the attacking zone from the middle of the ice and flung a shot on net that beat Vasilevskiy on the far blocker side.

Hall (12) and Derek Forbort (3) tallied the assists as the Bruins jumped out to a, 1-0, lead at 1:11 of the first period.

About 90 seconds later, Curtis Lazar tripped up Mathieu Joseph in the neutral zone and cut a rut to the box– yielding the night’s first power play to the Lightning at 2:45, but Boston’s penalty kill stood tall.

Moments later, Hall sent a shot on goal that rebounded off of Vasilevskiy’s pads as Pastrnak (11) crashed the net– kicking the rubber biscuit to his blade before burying the puck low, glove side, as Vasilevskiy was caught looking in the other direction.

The Bruins led, 2-0, as Hall (13) and Erik Haula (7) picked up the assists on Pastrnak’s second goal of the game at 6:10 of the first period.

Midway through the opening frame, Nick Foligno was taken down in front of Tampa’s net and was helped off the ice, clutching his right leg.

The Bruins later tweeted that he wouldn’t return for the rest of the night with a lower body injury and Cassidy ruled him out of the lineup for Monday night against the Capitals in Washington, D.C. while speaking to reporters after Saturday night’s win.

After one period, the B’s led, 2-0, on the scoreboard, despite trailing, 13-7, in shots on goal.

The Bolts held the advantage in giveaways (1-0), while Boston led in blocked shots (3-1), takeaways (4-2) and faceoff win percentage (58-42). Both teams managed to amass 11 hits each.

The Lightning were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission, while the Bruins had yet to see any action on the skater advantage.

Boston got off to a fast start in the middle frame as Patrice Bergeron worked the puck to Mike Reilly as the team worked their way around the attacking zone before Reilly sent a shot attempt towards the slot for Marchand (13) to redirect with a backhand deflection past Vasilevskiy– extending Boston’s lead to three goals.

Reilly (5) and Bergeron (15) notched the assists as Marchand’s goal gave the Bruins a, 3-0, lead 26 seconds into the second period.

Midway through the period, Marchand hooked Erik Cernak and cut a rut to the sin bin at 8:39.

Tampa went on a 5-on-3 advantage for 47 seconds when Bergeron caught Victor Hedman with a high stick at 9:53 of the second period.

The Bruins killed off both minor infractions, however.

Late in the period, Oskar Steen forced a turnover in the attacking zone and worked a quick pass to Anton Blidh (2) for a catch and release goal on the short side past Vasilevskiy’s blocker.

Steen (4) had the only assist on Blidh’s goal at 14:54 and Boston led, 4-0, heading into the second intermission.

Through 40 minutes of action, the B’s led, 4-0, despite trailing in shots on goal, 20-19– though Boston held a, 12-7, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Bruins dominated in blocked shots (8-1) and takeaways (6-3), while the Lightning led in giveaways (2-0), hits (21-20) and faceoff win% (52-48).

Boston had yet to see any time on the skater advantage, while Tampa was 0/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Tampa emerged fresh from the dressing room to kickstart the third period with a goal 24 seconds into the final frame– disrupting Ullmark’s bid for a shutout in the process.

Mikhail Sergachev dumped the puck into the corner on a hard intentional rebound for Cernak to one-touch pass off the carom over to Ondrej Palat (14) for a one-timer goal on a half empty net.

Cernak (4) and Sergachev (14) nabbed the assists on Palat’s goal and the Lightning trailed, 4-1, 24 seconds into the third period.

A couple minutes later, Vasilevskiy tripped Trent Frederic and presented the Bruins with their first power play of the night at 2:28 of the third period.

Boris Katchouk, meanwhile, served Vasilevskiy’s minor infraction while the Bolts killed off the penalty.

Midway through the third period, Brayden Point (13) received a pass from Cernak, stopped and measured up, then wired the puck past Ullmark inside the post to cut Boston’s lead to two goals.

Cernak (5) and Sergachev (15) tallied the assists and the Lightning trailed, 4-2, at 11:20 of the third period– making things exciting for Tampa fans for an inevitable comeback, right?

Except the comeback never came. Not Saturday night, anyway.

Roughly 90 seconds after Point brought more momentum in favor of the Bolts, Anthony Cirelli tripped Bergeron and cut a rut to the box at 12:57– yielding a power play to the Bruins for the second time of the night.

Boston’s skater advantage was cut short, however, as Charlie Coyle hooked Joseph at 14:54 and brought the Lightning forward to the ice.

After four seconds of 4-on-4 action, Tampa went on an abbreviated power play, but the Bruins’ penalty kill handled the surge in momentum well and killed off Coyle’s infraction.

Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, pulled Vasilevskiy for an extra attacker, but it was to no avail as Marchand (14) pocketed his second goal of the game from downtown near the blue line and Vaakanainen (1) picked up an assist in his first game of the season.

The Bruins led, 5-2, at 17:11 of the third period and Cooper didn’t pull his goaltender for the rest of the night as the seconds ticked down and the final horn sounded decisively in favor of Boston.

The B’s had won, 5-2, and finished the game leading in shots on goal, 30-29, after managing to amass an, 11-9, advantage in shots on net in the third period alone.

The Bruins left Amalie Arena with two points in the standings, as well as the lead in blocked shots (9-7) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Bolts left their home ice leading in giveaways (2-0) and hits (31-26).

Tampa finished the night 0/4 on the power play while Boston went 0/2.

The B’s improved to 12-5-0 (7-2-0 on the road) when scoring first, 13-0-0 (8-0-0 on the road) when leading after the first period and 13-1-0 (9-0-0 on the road) when leading after two periods this season.

The Lightning fell to 9-8-1 (5-3-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 4-5-1 (2-1-1 at home) when trailing after one and 3-7-1 (0-3-1 at home) when losing through two periods in 2021-22.

The Bruins visit the Washington Capitals next Monday (Jan. 10th) before returning home to host the Montréal Canadiens next Wednesday to kickoff a seven-game homestand in which Boston will host the Canadiens, Philadelphia Flyers, Nashville Predators, Carolina Hurricanes, Capitals, Winnipeg Jets and Anaheim Ducks.

The B’s were originally scheduled to play at Bell Centre on Jan. 12th, but due to the rise of the Omicron variant and capacity limits across Canada, that game has been postponed and instead Boston’s meeting with the Habs originally scheduled for March 21st has been moved up.

Tickets for March 21st in Boston will be honored on Jan. 12th against Montréal.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net

Stamkos sinks Bruins in overtime on the road, 3-2

Steven Stamkos scored the game-winning overtime goal 91 seconds after the extra frame began to hold off a comeback and give the Tampa Bay Lightning a, 3-2, overtime win over the Boston Bruins Saturday night at TD Garden.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (12-4-3, 2.13 goals-against average, .927 save percentage in 19 games played) made 37 saves on 39 shots against in the overtime win for the Lightning.

Bruins netminder, Jeremy Swayman (7-4-1, 2.27 goals-against average, .918 save percentage in 12 games played) stopped 22 out of 25 shots faced in the overtime loss.

Boston fell to 12-8-1 (25 points) on the season and remain in command of 5th place in the Atlantic Division– two points behind the Pittsburgh Penguins for a wild card spot in the Eastern Conference.

Meanwhile, Tampa improved to 14-5-4 (32 points) overall and in command of 3rd place in the Atlantic– five points behind their intrastate rival, Florida Panthers, for the division lead.

Prior to Saturday night, the B’s and Bolts hadn’t met in the regular season since March 7, 2020, due to the ongoing pandemic that temporarily realigned the league’s divisions last season.

In their last meeting, which was also at TD Garden, the Lightning won, 5-3, as Boston cemented a 1-2-1 season series record against the Bolts in 2019-20.

Anton Blidh (upper body) remained out of the lineup on Saturday night as Charlie McAvoy (non-COVID related illness) and Jakub Zboril (lower body) joined Blidh among the sick and injured while head coach, Bruce Cassidy, remains in the National Hockey League’s COVID-19 protocol.

Zboril is set to be re-evaluated on Sunday for an injury that he sustained in Thursday night’s, 2-0, shutout in Nashville.

As a result of McAvoy’s game-time decision status, Jack Ahcan and Oskar Steen were recalled from the Providence Bruins (AHL), who had enough players cleared to be called up or assigned in the aftermath of a COVID outbreak among Boston’s American Hockey League affiliate.

Acting head coach, Joe Sacco, made two minor changes to his lineup– inserting Ahcan alongside Derek Forbort on the blue line in place of McAvoy and placing Connor Clifton back on the third pairing with Mike Reilly with Zboril out.

Steen served as Boston’s only healhty scratch on Saturday with Brad Marchand (suspension) serving the final game of his three-game suspension for slew-footing Oliver Ekman-Larsson in Nov. 28th’s, 3-2, win against the Vancouver Canucks.

Nick Foligno hooked Erik Cernak 32 seconds into the first period, yielding the night’s first power play opportunity to the Lightning as a result.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, as the Bruins made the kill.

Midway through the opening frame, Bolts defender, Zach Bogosian, caught B’s forward, Craig Smith, with a high stick and cut a rut to the penalty box as a result at 13:19.

Boston couldn’t beat Vasilevskiy and the Lightning’s penalty killing unit on the resulting advantage and even gave up their second shorthanded goal against this season less than a minute after Bogosian set a foot in the sin bin.

Taylor Raddysh received a pass into the attacking zone from Mikhail Sergachev and promptly deked through Reilly by slipping the puck under the Bruins defender’s stick before pulling the rubber biscuit to his backhand and wrapping it tightly around Swayman’s outstretched right leg.

Raddysh (1) scored his first career NHL goal and put Tampa on the board first, 1-0, at 14:13 with his shorthanded goal, while Sergachev (10) recorded the only assist on the tally.

Entering the first intermission, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard despite trailing, 12-6, in shots on net.

Boston also held the advantage in hits (11-8) and faceoff win percentage (61-39), while the Bolts led in blocked shots (7-2) and giveaways (5-1).

Both teams had three takeaways each and went 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

After ringing the post three times, the Bruins fell victim to the most common play in hockey– the one rush the other way that goes in.

Anthony Cirelli sent a pass up to Ondrej Palat as the Bolts entered the attacking zone, leading to a great chance for Palat to make a play across the slot for a teammate to one-time the puck.

Instead, Palat (6) faked a shot and sent a pass that deflected off of Tomáš Nosek and into the twine as Swayman couldn’t react to Nosek’s unintentional own goal.

Cirelli (8) and Victor Hedman (18) tallied the assists as the Lightning took a, 2-0, lead at 3:36 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Erik Haula snagged a rebound from the slot and made a backhand pass through his legs to Charlie Coyle (7) for the one-timer goal while crashing the net– cutting Tampa’s lead in half in the process.

Haula (4) and Smith (4) were credited with the assists on Coyle’s goal and the Bruins trailed, 2-1, at 16:30.

A couple of minutes later, Matt Grzelcyk was sent to the box for hooking at 18:25, but the Lightning weren’t able to convert on the ensuing power play that carried into the final frame of regulation.

Entering the second intermission, Tampa led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite Boston controlling the advantage in shots on net, 28-13, including a, 16-7, advantage in the second period alone.

The Lightning dominated in blocked shots (13-6), as well as giveaways (10-4), while the Bruins led in takeaways (7-6), hits (24-20) and faceoff win% (63-37).

Tampa was 0/2 and Boston was 0/1 on the power play heading into the third period.

Curtis Lazar (1) tied the game, 2-2, at 4:44 of the third period on a backhand shot that he elevated over Vasilevskiy’s glove as the Bruins surged in momentum.

Brandon Carlo (2) and Grzelcyk (4) notched the assists on Lazar’s first goal of the season, but neither team was able to score thereafter– necessitating the use of an overtime period.

There were also no penalties called in the third period, meaning that Boston finished the night 0/1 on the power play, while Tampa went 0/2 on the skater advantage.

The Bruins completed 60 minutes of action leading in shots on goal, 38-21, including a, 10-8, advantage in the third period alone.

The B’s also led in takeaways (9-8), hits (33-31) and faceoff win% (59-41) after regulation, while the Lightning led in blocked shots (18-10) and giveaways (12-6).

Entering overtime, the Bruins had yet to win or lose a game this season in the extra frame, while the Lightning were 3-2 in overtime alone in 2021-22.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, started Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Alex Killorn and Hedman, while Sacco countered with Coyle, Taylor Hall and Reilly.

The two teams traded chances at both ends before a dramatic shift led to a timely save by Swayman that promptly rebounded out through the slot to David Pastrnak for a clear exit from his own zone all the way into Boston’s attacking zone on a breakaway.

Only Sergachev trailed Pastrnak and the Lightning defender was gaining ground.

As Pastrnak barely got a shot attempt off and wide, Sergachev got enough to tie up the Bruins forward– after which, the Bolts blue liner sent a pass up-ice to Stamkos for a breakaway opportunity heading in the other direction.

Luckily for Boston, Reilly was the only skater within range to get back and defend.

Unfortunately for Boston, Stamkos approached Swayman on a 2-on-1 with Palat by his side.

Instead of lobbing a pass for a one-timer, Stamkos (12) wound up and fired an old-fashioned slap shot past Swayman’s short side to win the game, 3-2, at 1:31 of the overtime period.

Sergachev (11) had the only assist on the goal.

Tampa finished the night with the win on the scoreboard and a, 4-1, advantage in shots on goal in overtime alone, despite trailing Boston, 39-25, overall in total shots on net.

The Lightning exited TD Garden with the advantage in blocked shots (19-11) and giveaways (13-7), while the Bruins finished Saturday night’s action leading in hits (33-31) and faceoff win% (58-42).

The Bolts improved to 4-2 in overtime this season, while the B’s fell to 0-1.

Boston also fell to 4-4-1 (3-2-1 at home) when allowing the game’s first goal, 2-3-1 (2-1-1 at home) when trailing after the first period and 2-5-1 (2-2-1 at home) when trailing after two periods this season as a result of the overtime loss.

Tampa, meanwhile, improved to 9-1-3 (3-0-2 on the road) when scoring first, 9-1-2 (2-0-2 on the road) when leading after one and 8-1-3 (2-0-2 on the road) when leading after the second period in 2021-22.

The Bruins hit the road for a three-game road trip through Western Canada next week, starting on Wednesday (Dec. 8th) in Vancouver before playing the following night in Edmonton with a day off next Friday before visiting the Calgary Flames next Saturday.

Boston returns home to host the Vegas Golden Knights on Dec. 14th before another three-game road trip thereafter.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Previews

Tampa Bay Lightning 2021-22 Season Preview

2020-21 record 36-17-3, 75 points

3rd in the Discover NHL Central Division

Defeated Montréal in the Stanley Cup Final

Additions: F Pierre-Édouard Bellemare, F Gabriel Dumont, F Remi Elie, F Charles Hudon, F Corey Perry, D Zach Bogosian, D Brent Seabrook (acquired from CHI), D Andrej Sustr, G Brian Elliott, G Maxime Lagacé

Subtractions: F Alex Barré-Boulet (re-signed, then claimed off waivers by SEA), F Blake Coleman (signed with CGY), F Marian Gaborik (contract expired, informally retired), F Barclay Goodrow (traded to NYR), F Yanni Gourde (expansion, SEA), F Tyler Johnson (traded to CHI), F Ryan Lohin (signed with Charlotte Checkers, AHL), F Mitchell Stephens (traded to DET), F/D Luke Witkowski (signed with DET), D Andreas Borgman (signed with DAL), D Brian Lashoff (signed with DET), D David Savard (signed with MTL), D Luke Schenn (signed with VAN), D Ben Thomas (SHL), G Christopher Gibson (signed with FLA), G Spencer Martin (traded to VAN), G Curtis McElhinney (retired), G Anders Nilsson (retired)

Still Unsigned: F Boo Nieves

Re-signed: F Ross Colton, F Boris Katchouk, F Taylor Raddysh, F Gemel Smith, F Otto Somppi, D Fredrik Claesson, D Sean Day, D Cal Foote

Offseason Analysis: One of the good things about winning the Cup is that the following season’s expectations are wiped clean. Sure, fans and analysts may want to see you win it again in back-to-back seasons, but that’s just icing on the cake and any run that comes up short in the year following a Cup ring can be forgiven.

Luckily for Tampa, they won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships in 2020 and 2021, so if they don’t happen to become the first team to win three consecutive titles since the New York Islanders won four Stanley Cup rings in a row from 1980-83, that’s fine.

The Lightning don’t get two straight years of postseason forgiveness, however.

Rather, the Bolts are on the quest for the first dynasty in the National Hockey League since the Edmonton Oilers won three Cups in four years from 1987-90.

That’s right, folks, Chicago didn’t have a dynasty when they won in 2010, 2013 and 2015. There’s a few too many years in-between.

Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy and the rest of the Lightning, however, have a chance of doing something not even Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin and Marc-Andre Fleury with the Pittsburgh Penguins, nor Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa, Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook, Corey Crawford and the rest in Chicago were able to do– win three-straight Stanley Cup Finals.

Oh and the dynasty thing too, which is a given.

But success comes with a price in the loss of depth over time– whether it’s because of lower draft picks over time or simply due to salary cap constraints that pressure Cup winners into shipping out some of the glue guys from the team that just won it all in the middle of a summer-long party.

It is, after all, a business.

Blake Coleman, Barclay Goodrow and Yanni Gourde– Tampa’s third line that could be a second line on any other roster– was broken up over the summer.

Coleman joined the Calgary Flames in free agency, Goodrow was traded to the New York Rangers and Gourde was a victim of the 2021 NHL Expansion Draft– in other words, the first certified star forward in the making for the Seattle Kraken.

Though the Lightning will miss out on the speed and production of that line in their bottom-six, Tampa is more than ready to promote some bottom-six breakout stars from last season into genuine full-time roles, while also accommodating for general turnover after winning back-to-back Cups.

Tampa General Manager, Julien BriseBois, signed Corey Perry to a two-year deal worth $1.000 million per season as a low-risk, high-reward veteran that can manage bottom-six minutes with efficiency at this point in his career– yielding 21 points in each of the last two seasons (5-16–21 totals in 57 games with the Dallas Stars in 2019-20, 9-12–21 totals in 49 games with the Montréal Canadiens in 2020-21), while finishing as the first runner up to the Lightning in back-to-back Stanley Cup Final appearances.

BriseBois also added Pierre-Édouard Bellemare to the Bolts’ fourth line after Bellemare spent the last two seasons in a Colorado Avalanche uniform, recording 11 points (nine goals, two assists) in 53 games for the Avs last season, as well as a career-high 22 points (nine goals, 13 assists) in 69 gamed with Colorado in 2019-20.

Among internal options to move up into the top-nine or make the fourth line after spending last year on the taxi squad or bouncing around in recent years between stints in the NHL, AHL, Major Junior or college, Ross Colton, Boris Katchouk, Mathieu Joseph, Gemel Smith and Taylor Raddysh all present themselves as options to compete for– if not rotate in and out of– a spot on the fourth line.

Colton scored the Cup clinching goal in the second period of Game 5 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final– the only goal of the, 1-0, victory over the Canadiens that secured Tampa’s second Cup ring in as many years.

In 30 games last season, he had 9-3–12 totals. Not bad for a 25-year-old on the rise after spending parts of the last three seasons with the Syracuse Crunch (AHL).

Joseph managed 26 points (13 goals, 13 assists) in 70 games with the Bolts in 2018-19, before being limited to 4-3–7 totals in just 37 games in 2019-20.

Last season, he bounced back with 19 points (12 goals, seven assists) in 56 games and is sure to continue to mesh well with Tampa’s influx of youth in the bottom-six as a 24-year-old forward.

Entering 2021-22, Katchouk and Raddysh are still looking to make their NHL debuts, though Raddysh is slated to be in the lineup against Pittsburgh on Opening Night.

While Tampa sorts out their supporting cast, one thing that’s remained consistent is the Lightning’s top-six as Kucherov returns to regular season action for a full 82-game slate alongside Point and Ondrej Palat on the first line.

Meanwhile, Anthony Cirelli leads Alex Killorn and Stamkos on the second line as Hedman, Jan Rutta, Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak lead the defenders with Mikhail Sergachev paired alongside Zach Bogosian (he’s back!).

Curtis McElhinney retired over the summer, though not before BriseBois upgraded his backup goaltender role with Brian Elliott first.

Elliott’s looking to rebound from a rough stint with the Philadelphia Flyers over the last four seasons, in which he most recently went 15-9-2 with a 3.06 goals-against average, an .889 save percentage and two shutouts in 30 games played.

He’s sure to benefit from 1) Tampa’s defense and 2) Vasilevskiy yielding an overwhelming majority of games in the regular season.

Vasilevskiy produced a 31-10-1 record in 42 games last season with a 2.21 goals-against average, a .925 save percentage and five shutouts in that span.

As for what else is missing from this summer’s tactical overhaul with the salary cap in mind after winning back-to-back Cups?

Let’s review all of Tampa’s trades from after the Final through now real quick, shall we?

Goodrow was dealt to the New York Rangers for a 2022 7th round pick on July 17th, then BriseBois swapped a 2022 4th round pick for a 2021 4th round pick with Montréal at the second day of the 2021 NHL Entry Draft on July 24th.

A few days later, he cleared out some salary by shipping Tyler Johnson to Chicago with a 2023 2nd round pick for Seabrook’s contract that is currently on the long-term injured reserve thanks to a career-ending injury that renders Seabrook as a forgiven cap hit on the books.

Mitchell Stephens packed his bags out of Tampa for the Detriot Red Wings in exchange for a 2022 6th round pick on July 30th, then the Lightning sent Spencer Martin to the Vancouver Canucks for future considerations on July 31st.

Offseason Grade: C

Down the road, Point’s eight-year extension at $9.500 million per season is an excellent move made by BriseBois, but since that contract goes into effect starting next season (2022-23), it doesn’t sway the offseason grade for 2021.

If it were just a postseason grade, the Bolts would get an “A”, but since this is a measure of everything that happened after the 2021 Stanley Cup Final and before the 2021-22 season gets underway, well, Tampa had an average summer.

They filled some holes, shed some salary and were forced to make difficult decisions in other areas thanks to the existence of the salary cap and some key players being healthy for a change as the Lightning embark on their two-time defending Stanley Cup champion season.

All in all, it’s not too bad to be a fan of the Lightning these days or a member of the organization– as long as you got here before the 2021 Stanley Cup Final wrapped up.

This isn’t to say that Tampa will be bad by any means, but rather that they’re content with contending for the next few years to come– at least– so if they don’t win three Cup rings in as many years, that’s fine. They’ll be quite alright.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning one win away from repeating as Stanley Cup champions

The Tampa Bay Lightning are one win away from sweeping the Montréal Canadiens– and winning their third Stanley Cup championship in franchise history in the process– after defeating the Canadiens, 6-3, at Bell Centre on Friday night in Game 3.

Friday night marked the first Stanley Cup Final game in Montréal since the Habs won it all in Game 5 of their series against the Los Angeles Kings on June 9, 1993.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (15-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .938 save percentage in 21 games played) made 32 saves on 35 shots against in the win for the Lightning.

Meanwhile, Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-8, 2.36 goals-against average, .921 save percentage in 20 games played) stopped 24 out of 29 shots faced in the loss.

Jon Cooper made no changes to his lineup for the Lightning while Alex Killorn remained out of commission due to an undisclosed injury that he sustained while blocking a shot in Game 1.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, was back behind the bench for the Habs after testing positive for COVID-19 in the last playoff round against the Vegas Golden Knights and self-isolating.

Ducharme made no adjustments to his lineup, while Luke Richardson returned to his usual role as an assistant coach for Montréal after serving as their temporary leader for the last six games.

The Québec provincial government made 3,500 seats available for Bell Centre’s seating capacity for Game 3, though it looked like more fans found a way in somehow on the television broadcast.

Jan Rutta (2) kicked things off with a shot from the point that floated over Price’s shoulder on the blocker side into the twine– giving Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 1:52 of the first period in the process and becoming the first player in NHL history to score a goal (regular season or playoffs) in the month of July.

Ondrej Palat (7) and Victor Hedman (16) tallied the assists on Rutta’s goal.

About a minute later, Eric Staal sent the puck over the glass and out of play for an automatic delay of game infraction at 2:54, yielding the night’s first power play to the Lightning in the process.

It didn’t take the Bolts that long on the skater advantage to convert with a power-play goal from Hedman (2) as the Lightning worked the puck around the attacking zone and back to the defender wearing No. 77.

He sent a slap shot off of Price, under the glove and into the back of the net to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead at 3:27 of the first period, while Nikita Kucherov (24) and Anthony Cirelli (7) picked up the assists.

Hedman became the first player in league history to record at least one goal in all 12 calendar months, while Montréal used their timeout to gather their composure.

Moments later, Blake Coleman went down awkwardly after missing Joel Edmundson on a hit attempt in open ice, but got up under his own power after a whistle and continued to play unscathed for the rest of the night.

Shortly thereafter, Cole Caufield sniped a shot off of the left post behind Vasilevskiy– beating the Lightning goaltender on the lower right pad– but the puck came back out of the crease and away from the attacking zone.

Midway through the first period, Phillip Danault (1) held the puck as he entered the zone and sent a shot off of Vasilevskiy that bounced off the left post and right post before finding its way into the net.

Shea Weber (5) had the only assist on Danault’s goal at 11:16 as the Canadiens cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1.

Late in the period, Mikhail Sergachev caught Artturi Lehkonen away from the puck just far enough from being considered a net front presence to yield an interference infraction at 17:29.

The Habs were not able to muster anything on the ensuing power play– their first skater advantage of the night.

Through 20 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard, despite the Canadiens holding a, 17-12, advantage in shots on goal.

Montréal also led in blocked shots (5-4), while Tampa led in giveaways (5-4), hits (21-19) and faceoff win percentage (52-48) entering the first intermission.

Neither team had recorded a takeaway through one period of play, while the Bolts were 1/1 and the Habs were 0/1 on the power play heading into the middle frame.

Just like how they got off to a quick start in the first period, the Lightning got off to a fast start in the second period as the Bolts caught the Habs on a poor line change with the long change playing into the end result.

The Canadiens failed to get the puck deep while trying to change things up, which led to a 2-on-0 heading back the other way for Tampa as Palat setup Kucherov (8) for the backhand redirection goal to make it, 3-1, Lightning at 1:40 of the second period.

Palat (8) and Erik Cernak (9) tallied the assists on Kucherov’s goal.

Almost two minutes later, Mathieu Joseph generated a rebound off Price that bounced off of Joseph’s skate right to his teammate in Tyler Johnson as Johnson crashed the net.

Johnson (3) got a backhand shot on the puck and fluttered the rubber biscuit past Price while the Habs goaltender reacted in desperation.

Joseph (1) and David Savard (4) notched the assists on Johnson’s goal as the Lightning extended their lead to, 4-1, at 3:33 of the second period.

Moments later, Cernak sent a shot off the post in the same end that Caufield rang the iron in the opening frame.

Late in the period, Nick Suzuki (7) went end-to-end with speed and sent a shot under Vasilevskiy’s right leg pad from just inside the faceoff dot on a soft goal to cut Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Jeff Petry (6) and Caufield (6) had the helpers on Suzuki’s goal as the Canadiens trailed the Lightning, 4-2, on the scoreboard at 18:04 of the second period.

Tampa entered the second intermission leading, 4-2, despite trailing in shots on goal to the Habs, 25-21. The Bolts held the advantage in shots on net in the second period alone, however, as they outshot Montréal, 9-8, in the middle frame.

The Canadiens led in giveaways (15-9), while Tampa dominated in everything else– leading in blocked shots (11-8), takeaways (1-0), hits (36-33) and faceoff win% (54-46) after 40 minutes of action on Friday.

As there were no penalties called in the second period, the Habs remained 0/1 on the power play, while the Bolts were 1/1 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame of regulation.

There were no penalties called in the final frame and the action picked up late in the period as Johnson (4) scored on another rebound while crashing the net– shoveling the puck into the twine on Price’s blocker side to make it, 5-2, for the Lightning at 15:19 of the third period.

Johnson’s second goal of the game was unassisted.

With 4:12 remaining in the game, Ducharme pulled Price for an extra attacker and the Habs went to work on cutting into Tampa’s lead.

Corey Perry (4) patiently carried the puck from the corner in the attacking zone to between the goal line and inside the faceoff dot, where he wired a shot over Vasilevskiy’s shoulder on the short side under the bar to bring the Canadiens to within two goals.

Brendan Gallagher (4) and Ben Chiarot (1) had the assists on Perry’s 45th career postseason goal as the Lightning led, 5-3, at 15:58 of the third period.

Once more, Price vacated the net for an extra attacker, but this time Tampa took full advantage of the open frame in the crease as Barclay Goodrow forced Caufield to turn the puck over off of Petry’s skate whereby Coleman (3) scooped up the loose puck and buried it for an empty net goal.

Goodrow (4) had the only assist on Coleman’s goal as the Bolts pulled ahead, 6-3, and sealed the deal on their Game 3 victory at 16:48 of the third period.

At the final horn, the Lightning had taken a 3-0 series lead with a, 6-3, victory despite trailing in shots on goal, 35-30, including a, 10-9, advantage in the third period alone for the Canadiens.

Montréal wrapped up Friday night’s action leading in giveaways (26-15), while Tampa held the advantage in blocked shots (13-11), hits (46-38) and faceoff win% (51-49).

Each team had one opportunity on the power play on Friday with the Lightning going 1/1 and the Canadiens finishing 0/1 on the skater advantage.

The Bolts became the fourth team in the Expansion Era (since 1967-68) to win the first three games in a Stanley Cup Final without trailing, joining the 2012 Los Angeles Kings and the 1977, as well as 1969 Canadiens in doing so.

Los Angeles went on to eliminate the New Jersey Devils in six games in 2012, to capture their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, while Montréal swept the Boston Bruins in the 1977 Stanley Cup Final and the St. Louis Blues in 1969.

Tampa can become the first team to sweep their opponent in the Final since the Detroit Red Wings swept the Washington Capitals in 1998.

The Lightning can win their third Stanley Cup ring in Game 4 on Monday night at Bell Centre in Montréal as the Canadiens look to avoid being eliminated on home ice.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBC for the action, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS for coverage.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning yield commanding 2-0 series lead in, 3-1, victory

Though they were outshot, 43-23, on the night, Blake Coleman’s eventual game-winning goal with only seconds to spare in the second period and Ondrej Palat’s insurance marker thereafter in the third period were enough to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a, 3-1, win over the Montréal Canadiens on Wednesday.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (14-6, 1.89 goals-against average, .939 save percentage in 20 games played) made 42 saves on 43 shots against in the Game 2 victory for the Lightning as the Bolts took a 2-0 series lead in the 2021 Stanley Cup Final in front of their home fans at Amalie Arena.

Canadiens goaltender, Carey Price (12-7, 2.23 goals-against average, .926 save percentage in 19 games played), stopped 20 out of 23 shots faced in the loss.

Joel Armia returned to the lineup for Montréal on the Canadiens’ fourth line alongside Eric Staal and Corey Perry after missing Game 1. Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday and flew in a private jet to Tampa and was not quite ready to go ahead of the, 5-1, loss in Game 1.

That was the only change to the lineup for Luke Richardson as Richardson remained at the reigns of the Habs on Wednesday.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, is expected to return behind the bench on Friday in time for Game 3 at Bell Centre in Montréal, where Ducharme has been isolating since testing positive for COVID-19 last month.

At the other end of the rink, Alex Killorn missed Game 2 after blocking a shot in Game 1 and playing in limited ice time thereafter. Tyler Johnson was promoted to Tampa’s second line, while Jon Cooper inserted Mathieu Joseph on the Lightning’s fourth line as a result.

The Bolts hosted 18,600 fans in attendance on Wednesday, which was up from Monday night’s capacity limit of 16,300.

The Québec provincial government informed the Canadiens on Wednesday night that Bell Centre would be limited to 3,500 fans for Game 3 on Friday– despite the large crowd that is sure to gather outside the arena anyway during the game.

Habs defender, Jeff Petry, tripped Brayden Point and presented the Lightning with the night’s first power play at 5:29 of the first period.

Tampa wasn’t able to convert on the skater advantage, however.

The Bolts had another unsuccessful power play moments later when Paul Byron cut a rut to the penalty box for catching Steven Stamkos with a slash at 9:57.

Once more, however, Tampa couldn’t score on the advantage.

Byron later returned to the sin bin for slashing once more at 17:27 of the first period, only this time he took Lightning defender, Erik Cernak, with him as Cernak was assessed a retaliatory cross checking infraction.

Meanwhile, Ryan McDonagh had caught Phillip Danault with a high stick and drew blood, yielding a four-minute double minor penalty at the same time.

As a result, Montréal went on a 4-on-3 power play for a pair of minutes before the Canadiens had a run-of-the-mill 5-on-4 skater advantage for the remainder of McDonagh’s minor (which would spill into the middle frame).

Neither team found the back of the net prior to the first horn of the night to signal the start of the first intermission.

The score remained, 0-0, despite the Canadiens leading in shots on goal, 13-6.

The Habs led in blocked shots (8-1), hits (14-11) and faceoff win percentage (53-47), while the Bolts held the advantage in takeaways (5-1) and giveaways (3-1).

Both teams went 0/2 on the power play through one period on Wednesday.

Tampa was the first to get on the scoreboard as Johnson worked the puck back to Anthony Cirelli at the point whereby Cirelli (5) sent a floating shot from almost downtown through traffic off of Price’s blocker and under the Canadiens’ goaltender’s arm into the twine.

Johnson (2) and Jan Rutta (1) tallied the assists on Cirelli’s goal as the Lightning pulled ahead, 1-0, at 6:40 of the second period.

Cirelli’s goal was just the second shot on net for the Bolts in a span of almost 16 minutes.

Moments later, Mikhail Sergachev was penalized for interference at 10:03 and presented the Canadiens with another power play.

This time, Montréal made quick work of the skater advantage– in part, due to a couple lucky bounces.

Nick Suzuki (6) flipped a backhand shot towards the net as the puck bounced off the ice, caught McDonagh’s stick, changed direction and slipped through Vasilevskiy’s five-hole as Perry acted as a screen in front of the Tampa netminder.

Suzuki’s power-play goal was unassisted and tied the game, 1-1, at 10:36 of the second period.

Late in the period, Armia caught Coleman with a high stick at 16:38 and presented the Lightning with another power play.

Though Tampa wouldn’t score on the skater advantage, they would catch the Canadiens in the vulnerable minute after special teams action as the Habs turned the puck over in the neutral zone.

Barclay Goodrow chipped the rubber biscuit to himself around Ben Chiarot and entered the attacking zone on a rush with Coleman.

Goodrow then sent a backhand pass to Coleman (2) for the one-timed swing while diving to reach the puck– connecting on the mid-air rubber and scoring in the process to give the Lightning a, 2-1, lead at 19:58 of the second period.

It was the first goal for Coleman in 19 games as Goodrow (3) and McDonagh (6) picked up the assists and the Bolts entered the second intermission with the lead on the scoreboard.

Through 40 minutes, Tampa led, 2-1, despite trailing in shots on goal, 29-13. Montréal held a, 16-7, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

The Habs also led in blocked shots (9-6) and faceoff win% (54-46), while the Lightning led in takeaways (9-4), giveaways (4-1) and hits (28-24).

The Canadiens were 1/3 on the power play and the Bolts were 0/3 on the skater advantage heading into the final frame.

Joel Edmundson sent a reverse pass off the boards behind his own net intended for Petry, but Palat (5) intercepted the puck and banked it off of Price into the back of the net as the Canadiens defenders miscommunication proved costly at 15:42 of the third period.

Palat’s unassisted goal gave the Lightning a, 3-1, lead and secured the victory as such.

Moments later, Montréal pulled Price for an extra skater with about two minutes remaining in the game and used their timeout after a stoppage with 46.7 seconds to go, but it was to no avail.

At the final horn, Tampa had won, 3-1, and taken a 2-0 series lead as a result.

The two teams exchanged further pleasantries, yielding a cross checking minor and a misconduct for Cirelli at 20:00 of the third period, as well as a roughing minor and a misconduct for Perry at the same time.

Montréal finished the night leading in shots on goal, 43-23, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

The Habs exited the building leading in faceoff win% (53-47), while the Bolts wrapped up Wednesday night leading in blocked shots (14-10), giveaways (6-2) and hits (40-36).

Despite each team receiving a couple infractions to finish off the night, the Canadiens finished 1/3 and the Lightning went 0/3 on the power play in Game 2.

For the first time in four Stanley Cup Final appearances, Tampa had a 2-0 series lead and didn’t split the series 1-1 through Games 1 and 2.

Another interesting stat from the night relates to the fact that the Habs fell to 10-4 this postseason when not giving up a goal in the first period. They dominated in shots on goal and have been the best at comebacks this postseason and yet…

Just not enough on Wednesday, apparently.

The series shifts to Bell Centre in Montréal on Friday night where the Lightning look to go up 3-0 in the series, while the Canadiens look to win Game 3 and cut Tampa’s series lead to 2-1.

Puck drop is set for 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can catch the action on NBC, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning rout Canadiens in Game 1 victory at home

Nikita Kucherov scored a pair of goals as the Tampa Bay Lightning cruised to a, 5-1, victory over the Montréal Canadiens Monday night at Amalie Arena in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (13-6, 1.94 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in 19 games) made 18 saves on 19 shots against in the win as the Lightning jumped out to a 1-0 series lead in the Final.

Habs netminder, Carey Price (12-6, 2.18 goals-against average, .928 save percentage in 18 games played), stopped 22 out of 27 shots faced in the loss.

Jake Evans returned to the lineup for the Canadiens for the first time since sustaining a concussion on a charge from Mark Scheifele in Game 1 of Montréal’s Second Round series against the Winnipeg Jets.

Evans missed the last nine games for the Habs.

Meanwhile, Joel Armia was cleared from COVID protocol on Monday, flew in a private jet to Tampa and participated in warmup, but was not ready to go as a game-time decision.

Canadiens head coach, Dominique Ducharme, will return to his regular role behind the bench in Montréal for Game 3, since testing positive for COVID-19 on June 18th and self-isolating.

In accordance with Canadian regulations, Ducharme will did not travel to the United States for Games 1 and 2 in Tampa, so he won’t have to quarantine for another 14 days when the series shifts to Montréal for Games 3 and 4.

Luke Richardson remains in command for the Habs until Bell Centre hosts its first Stanley Cup Final game.

16,300 fans filled Amalie Arena on Monday night as Tampa continues to loosen indoor COVID-19 restrictions in attendance in accordance with the NHL’s protocols. It was the largest crowd for a Lightning game since last season.

Bolts head coach, Jon Cooper, rolled out Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point and Kucherov on his first line, while completing his top-six forward group with Alex Killorn, Anthony Cirelli and Steven Stamkos on the second line.

Barclay Goodrow, Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman comprised Tampa’s third line, while Pat Maroon, Tyler Johnson and Ross Colton carried the fourth line.

On defense, Cooper paired Victor Hedman with Jan Rutta as he’s done all postseason, while Ryan McDonagh and Erik Cernak served as his second pairing and Mikhail Sergachev was partnered with David Savard on the third defensive pair.

Richardson countered with Artturi Lehkonen, Phillip Danault and Brendan Gallagher on his first line, while Tyler Toffoli, Nick Suzuki and Cole Caufield rounded out Montréal’s top-six forward group.

Paul Byron, Jesperi Kotkaniemi and Josh Anderson skated together on the third line, while Evans, Eric Staal and Corey Perry slotted in on the fourth line.

On defense, Ben Chiarot suited up alongside Shea Weber, Joel Edmundson was paired with Jeff Petry and Erik Gustafsson skated with Jon Merrill on the third defensive pair for the Habs.

Cernak (1) opened the series’ scoring with a shot pass redirection goal over Price’s glove to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 6:19 of the first period.

Palat (6) and Point (7) tallied the assists on Cernak’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal in his 46th career postseason game.

Late in the period, Goodrow cross checked Gallagher and presented the Canadiens with the first power play of the series at 15:21 of the first period.

Montréal didn’t convert on the ensuing skater advantage, however, as the Lightning remained in command on the scoreboard.

Tampa got a power play at 19:14 after Chiarot roughed up Kucherov, but the Bolts couldn’t muster anything on the power play despite the split ends of the advantage over the remaining time in the first period and a little more than the opening minute of the middle frame.

After one period, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard and in shots on goal, 7-5.

Tampa also held the advantage in takeaways (3-2), while Montréal led in giveaways (3-1), hits (26-19) and faceoff win percentage (56-44).

Both teams managed to have three blocked shots each and were 0/1 on the power play heading into the first intermission.

Chiarot sent a shot attempt at the goal frame that deflected off of something and caught the iron to the right of Vasilevskiy’s leg pad, but the Bolts remained in command uninterrupted.

Moments later, Gallagher turned the puck over in Montréal’s attacking zone, leading to a rush for the Lightning heading back the other way, whereby Goodrow sent a shot that was blocked before Coleman pounced on the loose puck and threw a shot towards the net.

Coleman’s shot went through Merrill and caught a piece of Gourde (6) as he stood in front of the crease acting as a screen before the rubber biscuit had eyes and made its way through Price’s five-hole to give Tampa a, 2-0, lead.

Coleman (7) and Goodrow (2) notched the assists on the goal as the Bolts took a two-goal lead at 5:47 of the second period.

Late in the middle frame, Chiarot played a little pinball after Tampa turned it over and the Habs worked the puck around the attacking zone.

Chiarot (1) unloaded on a slap shot that deflected off of Cirelli, then McDonagh and slipped behind Vasilevskiy to cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1, on the scoreboard at 17:40.

Kotkaniemi (3) and Weber (4) were credited with the helpers on Chiarot’s first goal of the 2021 postseason for the Canadiens.

Through 40 minutes of play, the Lightning led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and, 19-14, in shots on goal, including a, 12-9, advantage in shots on net in the second period alone.

Tampa also held the advantage in blocked shots (8-5), takeaways (7-2), giveaways (7-3) and faceoff win% (51-49), while Montréal led in hits (44-41).

As there were no penalties called in the second period, both teams remained 0/1 on the power play heading into the second intermission.

Kucherov (6) threw the puck into the slot early in the final frame and Chiarot smacked it out of the air with his glove, but somehow the puck managed to float over Price’s glove and under the bar to give the Lightning a, 3-1, lead at 2:00 of the third period.

Sergachev (3) had the only assist on Kucherov’s first goal of the night.

Minutes later, Staal and Cernak exchanged pleasantries after a stoppage and received roughing minors at 6:30, resulting in a pair of minutes of 4-on-4 action.

Midway through the third period, Kucherov (7) received a pass from Point on an attacking zone faceoff win and sent a laser of a shot past Price high on the glove side to extend Tampa’s lead to three-goals.

Point (8) had the only assist on Kucherov’s second goal of the game as the Bolts made it, 4-1, at 11:25 of the third period.

About a couple minutes later, Coleman took off Gallagher’s helmet after Price froze the puck in Montréal’s own zone and slammed Gallagher into the ice face first, resulting in a bit of a bloody gash on Gallagher’s forehead and yielding a power play to the Canadiens as a result.

Coleman cut a rut to the box for roughing at 13:42, but the Habs weren’t able to score on the ensuing skater advantage.

Shortly after killing off Coleman’s minor infraction, the Bolts went on the power play as Kotkaniemi retaliated with a high stick on Cernak at 15:51.

Edmundson joined Kotkaniemi in the box late in the resulting power play for roughing Gourde at 17:20, yielding a 5-on-3 advantage to the Lightning as a result, whereby Cooper sent out five forwards to make the Habs pay on the scoreboard.

About 90 seconds later, Tampa struck on the power play when Stamkos (8) blasted a one-timer from his usual spot in the faceoff dot to beat Price on the short side.

Kucherov (23) and Point (9) tallied the assists on Stamkos’ power-play goal and the Lightning extended their lead, 5-1, at 18:50 of the third period.

At the final horn, Tampa had taken a 1-0 series lead with a, 5-1, victory over Montréal in Game 1 of the 2021 Stanley Cup Final.

The Bolts finished Monday night’s effort leading in shots on goal, 27-19, including an, 8-5, advantage in the third period alone.

The Lightning also wrapped up Game 1 leading in blocked shots (15-5) and giveaways (9-3), while the Canadiens finished the night leading in hits (58-57).

Faceoff win% was split evenly, 50-50, while the Habs went 0/2 and the Bolts went 1/3 on the power play.

Tampa has a chance to take a 2-0 series lead and Montréal’s got a chance to even the series 1-1 on Wednesday night in Game 2 from Amalie Arena.

Puck drop is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from CBC, SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Lightning strike twice in, 2-1, victory on the road in Game 1 against Hurricanes

It’s the perfect storm for meteorologists that also like hockey as the Tampa Bay Lightning took Game 1 on the road against the Carolina Hurricanes, 2-1, at PNC Arena on Sunday.

Barclay Goodrow scored the game-winning goal midway through the third period as Andrei Vasilevskiy (5-2, 2.41 goals-against average, .936 save percentage in seven games played) made 37 saves on 38 shots against in the win for Tampa.

Carolina netminder, Alex Nedeljkovic (4-3, 2.20 goals-against average, .923 save percentage in seven games played) stopped 28 out of 30 shots faced in the loss.

David Savard (upper body) was out of the lineup for the Lightning, while Nino Niederreiter (undisclosed) was not available for the Hurricanes in Game 1.

Rod Brind’Amour told reporters after Sunday’s game that Niederreiter might be out for the entire series against Tampa.

Meanwhile, these two clubs are meeting for the first time in a Stanley Cup Playoff series.

Midway through the opening frame, the Bolts botched a line change and had too many skaters on the ice, yielding a bench minor for exactly that– sending Pat Maroon to the box to serve the infraction– and presenting Carolina with the game’s first power play at 9:13 of the first period.

The Hurricanes, however, did not convert on the ensuing advantage.

Nor did the Canes find the back of the net on the following power play at 14:45 as Nikita Kucherov cut a rut to the penalty box for tripping Sebastian Aho.

After one period of action in Raleigh, the score remained tied, 0-0, while the Hurricanes outshot the Lightning, 15-12.

Carolina held the advantage in giveaways (3-2), while Tampa dominated in just about everything else, including blocked shots (4-3), hits (18-13) and faceoff win percentage (63-37).

Both teams had two takeaways each as the Lightning had yet to see time on the power play and the Hurricanes were 0/2.

Brock McGinn caught Mikhail Sergachev with a high stick to kickoff the second period with a power play for the Bolts at 6:56.

Late in the ensuing skater advantage, Victor Hedman sent a shot pass to Brayden Point (5) for the redirection through Nedeljkovic’s five-hole from point blank to give Tampa a, 1-0, lead at 8:15 of the second period.

Hedman (9) and Kucherov (9) notched the assists on Point’s power-play goal as the Bolts got on the board first.

Less than a minute later, Tampa was back on the power play as former Lightning forward, turned current Hurricanes player, Cedric Paquette, was penalized for interference at 8:56.

Tampa’s power play didn’t last long, however, as Kucherov cross checked McGinn at 10:11 and presented both teams with 46 seconds of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for Carolina.

Neither team managed to score on the ensuing special teams play and the Lightning got one more chance on the skater advantage late in the middle frame when Dougie Hamilton tripped Point at 15:06.

In the dying minute of the middle frame, Blake Coleman tripped Jordan Martinook and was sent to the box at 19:47 as a result.

Through 40 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 1-0, on the scoreboard, despite Carolina holding a, 26-21, advantage in shots on goal, including an, 11-9, advantage in the second period alone.

The Hurricanes led in blocked shots (14-9), takeaways (6-5) and giveaways (7-6) after two periods, while Tampa led in hits (32-23) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Bolts were 1/3 and the Canes were 0/4 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Carolina started the final frame with 1:48 left on the power play and used all but about seven seconds of it to wire one into the back of the net.

Jake Bean played catch with Andrei Svechnikov as Svechnikov tossed the puck back to Bean (1) for the shot past Vasilevskiy’s blocker side while Jesper Fast acted as a screen in front of the net.

Svechnikov (3) and Fast (2) had the assists on Bean’s first career Stanley Cup Playoffs goal as the Hurricanes tied things up, 1-1, at 1:41 of the third period.

Midway through the period, Anthony Cirelli got a stick up high on Vincent Trocheck and was assessed a minor infraction at 8:04 of the third period.

Carolina couldn’t score on the ensuing skater advantage, however.

Moments later, Goodrow (1) beat Nedeljkovic on the short side as the Canes netminder took his pad off the post to fall into the shot with his chest except the Bolts forward sent the puck low– beating Nedeljkovic and putting Tampa ahead, 2-1, at 12:39.

Coleman (3) had the only assist on Goodrow’s goal.

The Hurricanes tried to even things up– even after pulling Nedeljkovic for an extra skater with less than two minutes remaining in the game, but they couldn’t muster anything else past Vasilevskiy as the final horn sounded on the night.

Tampa had won, 2-1, and taken a 1-0 series lead despite being outshot by Carolina, 38-30, in total shots on goal, as well as, 12-9, in shots in the third period alone.

The Lightning wrapped up Sunday’s action leading in blocked shots (18-16) and hits (37-31), while the Hurricanes led in giveaways (12-7) and faceoff win% (53-47).

Both teams managed to score a power-play goal as the Bolts went 1/3 and the Canes went 1/5 on the skater advantage in Game 1.

The Lightning grabbed a 1-0 series lead as a result of stealing Game 1 on the road as the two clubs head into Game 2 on Tuesday night in Raleigh.

Puck drop at PNC Arena is expected to be around 7:30 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune to NBCSN for coverage, while those in Canada can choose from SN or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Bolts can eliminate Panthers in Game 5 with 3-1 series lead after, 6-2, win in Game 4

The Tampa Bay Lightning had an efficient day in the office, scoring six goals on 26 shots to beat the Florida Panthers, 6-2, in Game 4 of their 2021 First Round matchup at Amalie Arena on Saturday afternoon.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (3-1, 3.18 goals-against average, .919 save percentage in four games played) made 39 saves on 41 shots against in the win for the Lightning as he and his Bolts teammates grabbed a 3-1 series lead over Florida with the chance to eliminate the Panthers on the road in Game 5.

Panthers goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky (1-2, 5.36 goals-against average, .841 save percentage in three games played) made nine saves on 14 shots faced before he was replaced by Chris Driedger after allowing five goals in 27:15 time on ice.

Driedger (0-1, 3.72 goals-against average, .871 save percentage in three games played) stopped 11 out of 12 shots against for no decision in relief for Florida.

Game 4 was pretty much the opposite of Game 3 in net for the Panthers as Bobrovsky earned the start after relieving Driedger in a, 6-5, comeback win in overtime on Thursday night– only this time Driedger replaced Bobrovsky and Florida dropped Saturday’s effort, 6-2.

Yanni Gourde and Jonathan Huberdeau exchanged pleasantries as the intrastate rivals picked up right where they left off all series long and received roughing minors at 2:23 of the first period.

Less than a minute later– in the ensuing 4-on-4 action– Alex Killorn worked the puck up to Anthony Cirelli through the neutral zone, leading Cirelli into the attacking zone on a breakaway whereby Cirelli (2) beat Bobrovsky five-hole to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead.

Killorn (3) and Erik Cernak (1) had the assists as Tampa struck first at 3:00 of the opening frame.

Minutes later, Mikhail Sergachev passed the puck along the point to Nikita Kucherov who sent a shot towards the net that Gourde (2) tipped past Bobrovsky to extend Tampa’s lead to two-goals.

Kucherov (4) and Sergachev (1) tallied the assists on Gourde’s goal and the Bolts pulled ahead, 2-0, at 7:24.

About half-a-minute later, Gourde received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty and presented the Panthers with their first power play of the afternoon at 7:55.

It didn’t take Florida long to capitalize on the skater advantage as Aleksander Barkov sent a pass to Sam Bennett, who fired the puck off of Patric Hornqvist as Hornqvist stood in front of Vasilevskiy acting as a screen.

The puck bounced off Hornqvist to Huberdeau (2) who beat Vasilevskiy to the rubber biscuit and buried it into the twine as the Lightning goaltender dove across the crease in desperation.

Hornqvist (2) and Bennett (3) had the assists on Huberdeau’s power-play goal as the Panthers cut Tampa’s lead in half, 2-1, at 8:49.

Late in the period, Cernak fired a slap shot from the point that Ondrej Palat (2) deflected past Bobrovsky to make it a, 3-1, lead for the Bolts at 16:45 of the first period.

After 20 minutes of action, the Lightning led, 3-1, on the scoreboard, despite Florida leading in shots on goal, 15-7.

Tampa held the advantage in blocked shots (4-2), takeaways (4-0), giveaways (1-0), hits (18-15) and faceoff win percentage (53-47).

The Panthers were 1/1 on the power play and the Lightning had yet to see the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Anthony Duclair was sent to the box for holding at 4:27 of the second period, yielding a power play to Tampa for the first time Saturday afternoon as a result.

It didn’t take the Bolts long to strike on the skater advantage as Kucherov sent a shot pass to Killorn (2) for the doorstep redirection as the Lightning extended their lead, 4-1, at 5:41.

Kucherov (6) and Victor Hedman (7) had the assists on Killorn’s power-play goal as the Lightning continued their offensive onslaught on the scoreboard with their sixth power-play goal of the series.

Less than two minutes later, Killorn (3) tallied his second goal of the afternoon as Cirelli chipped the puck into the attacking zone before Steven Stamkos dished a pass to Killorn for the goal.

Stamkos (3) and Cirelli (2) notched the assists on Killorn’s second goal of the game as the Bolts pulled ahead, 5-1, at 7:15 of the second period.

After giving up five goals before the midpoint of the afternoon, Panthers head coach, Joel Quenneville, replaced Bobrovsky with Driedger to try to light a spark under his players.

Pat Maroon boarded Frank Vatrano about a minute later and presented Florida with another power play at 8:23 of the middle frame.

The Panthers weren’t on the skater advantage for that long as Carter Verhaeghe checked Cirelli away from the puck and was assessed an interference minor at 8:37.

Florida went back on the advantage as Cernak was penalized for roughing at 8:56, yielding a rare 4-on-3 power play to the Panthers for a 1:28 span.

Minutes later, Ryan Lomberg was checked from behind into Vasilevskiy and proceeded to antagonize Tampa in the crease after the whistle.

Lomberg and Sergachev each received roughing minors at 13:41 and plunged the game into two minutes of 4-on-4 action before Hedman hooked Verhaeghe at 15:36 and presented Florida with five seconds of another 4-on-3 advantage before an abbreviated regular 5-on-4 power play.

Late in the period, Sergachev caught Vatrano with a high stick at 17:45 and the Panthers went back on the power play.

This time Florida capitalized on the skater advantage as Verhaeghe (2) received a pass, pulled the puck to his backhand and elevated the rubber biscuit over Vasilevskiy and under the bar.

Barkov (4) and Huberdeau (6) had the assists on Verhaeghe’s power-play goal as the Panthers trailed, 5-2, at 18:45 of the second period.

Less than a minute later, Kucherov ran into Driedger and received a minor infraction for goaltender interference at 19:27, providing Florida with a power play that would extend into the final frame.

Through 40 minutes of action, Tampa led, 5-2, on the scoreboard despite trailing the Panthers, 34-18, in shots on goal. Florida held a, 19-11, advantage in shots on goal in the second period alone.

The Bolts continued to dominated in just about everything else, however, leading in blocked shots (5-3), takeaways (5-2), giveaways (2-1) and hits (28-26), while the Panthers led in faceoff win% (51-49).

Florida was 2/6 and Tampa was 1/1 on the power play heading into the final period.

Radko Gudas elbowed Ross Colton early in the third period and the Lighting went on the power play at 4:00 of the final frame.

Tampa made quick work of the skater advantage as they tallied another power-play goal– this time from Kucherov (3) on a one-timer– to make it, 6-2, for the Bolts.

Stamkos (4) and Killorn (4) had the assists on Kucherov’s power-play goal at 4:47 of the third period.

There were no more goals for the rest of Saturday afternoon’s action at Amalie Arena, but both clubs traded power play opportunities and dealt heavy blows that could affect the lineups for Game 5 on Monday.

Jan Rutta cross checked Owen Tippett at 8:23, so Florida pulled their goaltender for an extra attacker with nothing else left to lose on the ensuing power play.

Then Cernak got slashed and took a minute to get back on his skaters as Hornqvist was the offender and sent to the sin bin at 9:58, yielding 25 seconds of 4-on-4 action before an abbreviated power play for the Lightning.

Minutes later, Duclair gave Kucherov a quick slash behind the knee, leaving Kucherov injured on the ice, clutching his left leg before skating off on his own, without putting much weight on his knee.

Duclair was assessed a minor for slashing at 10:57 and the Lightning had a 5-on-3 advantage for a little less than a minute as a result.

Hornqvist later hit Sergachev shoulder-to-shoulder and sent the Bolts defender flying face first into the boards, leaving Sergachev hurting a bit.

Seconds later, Maroon and Hornqvist each received misconducts and had their nights come to an end at 16:24 of the third period.

Late in the game, Lomberg received a roughing minor at 17:05, as the Lightning wrapped things up with one more power play for the afternoon.

At the final horn, Tampa had won, 6-2, despite finishing Saturday’s action trailing in shots on goal, 41-26. The Lightning had actually led in shots on goal in the third period alone, 8-7.

The Bolts had the advantage in blocked shots (12-6), while Florida finished the day’s effort leading in giveaways (3-2), hits (37-33) and faceoff win% (55-45).

The Panthers went 2/7 and the Lightning went 2/4 on the power play in Saturday’s effort.

Tampa takes a 3-1 series lead heading back to Sunrise, Florida where the Panthers face elimination on home ice in Game 5 on Monday.

Puck drop from BB&T Center is set for a little after 8 p.m. ET and viewers in the United States can tune in to national coverage on CNBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on FX-CA or TVAS.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Panthers complete, 6-5, OT comeback in Game 3 win on the road

Ryan Lomberg emerged as an unlikely protagonist– scoring the game-winning goal early in overtime at Amalie Arena on Thursday– while Sergei Bobrovsky looked solid in relief of Chris Driedger as the Florida Panthers staged a third period comeback capped by a, 6-5, overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 3 of their 2021 First Round series.

Bobrovsky (1-1, 3.53 goals-against average, .898 save percentage in two games played) stopped all nine shots that he faced in relief (25:56 time on ice) en route to the victory for the Panthers.

Meanwhile, Driedger (0-1, 4.29 goals-against average, .860 save percentage in two games played) stopped 17 out of 22 shots faced for no decision in 40:00 time on ice.

Lightning goaltender, Andrei Vasilevskiy (2-1, 3.57 goals-against average, .908 save percentage in three games played), made 41 saves on 47 shots against in the loss.

Keith Yandle was a healthy scratch for Florida and Sam Bennett returned from his one game suspension for a hit from behind on Blake Coleman in Game 1.

Bennett (1) sent a one-timed redirection on the backhand past Vasilevskiy to give Florida an early, 1-0, lead at 4:31 of the first period.

Jonathan Huberdeau (3) and Owen Tippett (2) tallied the assists as the Panthers jumped on the scoreboard first while on the road.

Less than a few minutes later, Radko Gudas (1) stayed on the puck after his initial shot was blocked and wired the rubber biscuit past Vasilevskiy’s glove side to give the Panthers a two-goal lead.

Gustav Forsling (1) and Huberdeau (4) had the assists on Gudas’ first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal and Florida led, 2-0, at 7:05 of the opening frame.

There were no penalties in the first period, so after 20 minutes of action, the Panthers led, 2-0, on the scoreboard and, 12-10, in shots on goal entering the first intermission.

Florida also held the advantage in blocked shots (4-3), while Tampa led in takeaways (4-0), giveaways (3-1), hits (20-15) and faceoff win percentage (58-42).

Anthony Cirelli (1) buried a rebound from point blank to cut Florida’s lead in half, 2-1, and put the Lightning on the scoreboard as Victor Hedman (4) and Alex Killorn (2) tabbed the assists on Cirelli’s goal at 1:57 of the second period.

Moments later, Ross Colton (1) won a battle in the attacking zone and sent a shot over Driedger’s glove with Yanni Gourde acting as a screen on the doorstep for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

Coleman (1) had the only assist on Colton’s goal as the Bolts tied the game, 2-2, at 5:46 of the middle frame.

Tampa took control of the game (at least for the time being) with their third unanswered goal in a span of 6:41 as Steven Stamkos (2) sent a redirection from the low slot past Driedger after Ryan McDonagh snagged a turnover and entered the zone, setting up Stamkos with the primary assist on the goal– his third helper of the postseason.

Stamkos’ goal at 8:38 put the Bolts ahead, 3-2.

Tampa defender, Jan Rutta, presented Florida with the night’s first power play after interfering with Forsling away from the puck, but the Panthers couldn’t muster anything on the resulting skater advantage at 10:38.

Coleman and Bennett tangled up with one another and each received roughing minors at 11:17, but the number of skaters on the ice was unaffected.

Late in the Panthers’ power play, Alex Wennberg (1) sent a shot off of Hedman that squeaked past Vasilevskiy’s glove side to even things up, 3-3, at 12:34.

MacKenzie Weegar (1) and Tippett (3) tallied the assists on Wennberg’s goal, but the action didn’t remain tied for long.

Mason Marchment hooked Stamkos at 13:46 and presented the Lightning with their first power play of the night.

The Bolts capitalized on the resulting skater advantage as Brayden Point (3) let go of a one-timer off the iron and in from the bumper to make it.

Nikita Kucherov (3) and Hedman (5) had the assists on Point’s power-play goal and Tampa pulled ahead, 4-3, at 14:17 of the second period.

Almost two-and-a-half minutes later, Gudas hooked Ondrej Palat and presented the Lightning with another power play at 16:48.

Once again, late in the ensuing skater advantage the Bolts pocketed a power-play goal as Killorn (1) caught a pass from Hedman and slid the rubber biscuit underneath Driedger’s paddle to make it, 5-3, Tampa at 18:17.

After two periods of action in Tampa, the Lightning led, 5-3, on the scoreboard, despite the Panthers outshooting the Bolts, 29-22, including a, 17-12, advantage in the second period alone.

The Lightning held the lead in blocked shots (9-8), takeaways (5-3) and faceoff win% (58-42), while Florida led in hits (36-28).

Both teams had four giveaways each, while the Panthers were 1/1 and the Bolts were 2/2 on the power play entering the second intermission.

Panthers head coach, Joel Quenneville, replaced Driedger with Bobrovsky for the third period as Driedger allowed five goals on 22 shots.

Needless to say, while Bobrovsky stopped all nine shots that he would face in the remainder of the night’s action– Florida’s defense tightened up and suppressed the Lightning’s attack.

Palat boarded Marchment 41 seconds into the third period and the Panthers went on the power play early in the final frame of regulation as a result.

It didn’t take long for Huberdeau to get a shot towards the net that Patric Hornqvist (1) unintentionally redirected with his skate to bring Florida within one.

Huberdeau (5) and Aleksander Barkov (3) had the assists on Hornqvist’s power-play goal as the Panthers trailed, 5-4, at 1:45 of the third period.

Late in the period, Hedman turned the puck over to the point, whereby Hornqvist dished it to Wennberg, then Forsling (1) who threw it through Vailevskiy’s five-hole for his first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal– tying the game, 5-5, in the process.

Wennberg (1) and Hornqvist (1) notched the assists on Forsling’s goal at 16:53 of the third period.

Despite their surge in momentum, Florida had to kill off a minor infraction for cross checking when Anthony Duclair got tangled up with Killorn at 19:37.

Tampa’s power play would carry over into the extra frame, but ultimately was powerless as the Panthers killed it off.

Through 60 minutes of action at Amalie Arena on Thursday, the Panthers and Lightning were tied, 5-5, on the scoreboard, despite Florida leading in shots on goal, 43-28, including a, 14-6, advantage in the third period alone.

The Panthers led a complete shutdown of Tampa’s potent offense in the final 20-minutes and then some.

The Bolts still led in blocked shots (14-8), takeaways (7-5) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Florida held the advantage in hits (46-38).

Both teams managed four giveaways each heading into overtime.

As there were no penalties called in the extra period, Florida finished 2/2 and Tampa went 2/3 on the power play in Game 3.

Early in the extra frame, Florida won a faceoff in their own zone and worked the puck from Gudas to Frank Vatrano, then hit up Lomberg as he broke through Tampa’s defense and emerged with a quick breakaway as he was running out of runway.

Lomberg (1) shot the puck through Vasilevskiy– under the Tampa netminder’s glove– and into the back of the twine for his first career postseason goal and the game-winner in overtime.

Vatrano (1) and Gudas (1) earned the assists on Lomberg’s game-winner at 5:56 of the overtime period as the Panthers won, 6-5.

Florida cut Tampa’s series lead in half, 2-1, as a result as Lomberg– who scored two goals in 34 games with the Panthers in regular season– earned First Star honors for the night.

The Panthers finished Thursday night leading in shots on goal, 47-31, including a, 4-3, advantage in the overtime period alone.

Tampa finished the action leading in blocked shots (16-9), giveaways (5-4) and faceoff win% (52-48), while Florida wrapped things up with the lead in hits (46-40).

The Lightning have a chance to take a commanding 3-1 series lead on home ice in Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Saturday.

Puck drop is expected to be a little after 12:30 p.m. ET and viewers looking for national coverage in the United States can tune to CNBC, while those in Canada can catch the action on SN or TVAS2.

Categories
NHL Nick's Net Playoff Recaps

Point strikes twice as Lightning beat Panthers, 5-4, in Game 1

Brayden Point had a pair of goals to tie, then win the game for the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-4, over the Florida Panthers at BB&T Center in Game 1 of their 2021 First Round matchup on Sunday.

The Bolts stole a game on the road and took a 1-0 series lead as a result.

Andrei Vasilevskiy (1-0, 4.07 goals-against average, .897 save percentage in one game played) made 35 saves on 39 shots against in Sunday night’s barnburner victory for Tampa.

Meanwhile, Florida netminder, Sergei Bobrovsky (0-1, 5.08 goals-against average, .875 save percentage in one game played), stopped 35 out of 40 shots faced in the loss.

The Panthers and Lightning are meeting for the first time in a postseason series as the two clubs had never met before in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, despite being located in the same state (let alone the same division).

Florida enters the 2021 First Round having made their 7th postseason appearance in franchise history. The Panthers haven’t won a playoff series since 1996.

Meanwhile, Tampa is making their 13th appearance in the playoffs having won their 2nd Stanley Cup title in 2020.

Bolts captain, Steven Stamkos, and Lightning forward, Nikita Kucherov, were back from injury in time for Game 1 as Stamkos finished the regular season on injured reserve and Kucherov spent the entire 2020-21 season on long term injured reserve recovering from hip surgery.

Or salary cap circumvention, if that’s your thing.

Early in the action, Kucherov and MacKenzie Weegar tangled with one another, resulting in roughing minors for each player at 3:15 of the first period and a pair of minutes at 4-on-4.

Almost midway into the opening frame, Alex Killorn caught Jonathan Huberdeau with a slash and presented the Panthers with the night’s first power play at 7:18.

Florida thought they grabbed the game’s first lead when Sam Bennett poked the puck through Vasilevskiy from the doorstep, but the on ice officials immediately ruled Bennett’s actions as incidental goaltender interference– therefore negating the goal that the Panthers thought they had scored.

Less than a minute later, Blake Coleman (1) went on a shorthanded breakaway and slipped a backhand shot past Bobrovsky to give the Lightning a, 1-0, lead at 7:42 of the first period.

Yanni Gourde (1) and Ryan McDonagh (1) had the assists on Coleman’s shorthanded goal.

Less than a couple of minutes later, McDonagh cut a rut to the penalty box for boarding after the Bolts defender hit Panthers forward, Anthony Duclair, from behind at 9:04.

This time Florida made sure to capitalize on the ensuing skater advantage as Aleksander Barkov won a faceoff back to the point whereby Keith Yandle slid a pass to Huberdeau before Huberdeau then setup Barkov (1) with a pass through the slot for a one-timer goal.

Huberdeau (1) and Yandle (1) had the assists on Barkov’s power-play goal and the Panthers tied things up, 1-1, at 9:41.

Late in the period, Barkov and Jan Rutta got into a shoving match and received roughing minors at 14:09, yielding two minutes worth of 4-on-4 action.

Shortly after both squads received their skater back and resumed 5-on-5 action, the Panthers pulled ahead, 2-1, thanks to a one-timer from the point by former Bolt turned current Florida forward, Carter Verhaeghe (1).

Barkov (1) and Yandle (2) had the assists on Verhaeghe’s goal as the lead changed for the first time of the night at 16:31 of the first period.

In the aftermath of the goal celebration, Coleman slashed Frank Vatrano– who received a minor penalty of his own for embellishment.

There was more 4-on-4 action, as a result, to finish off the opening frame.

Entering the first intermission, the Panthers led, 2-1, on the scoreboard and dominated in shots on goal, 18-10.

Florida also held the advantage in blocked shots (7-4), giveaways (3-2) and hits (26-11), while both teams managed to have three takeaways each and were, 50-50, in faceoff win percentage after one period.

The Panthers were 1/2 on the power play, while the Lightning had yet to see any action on the skater advantage heading into the middle frame.

Bennett was penalized for holding at 4:27 of the second period, presenting Tampa with their first power play of the night in the process.

It didn’t take the Bolts long to bring the thunder on the power play as Kucherov (1) rocketed a one-timer from inside the faceoff dot to the left of Bobrovsky over his glove.

Victor Hedman (1) and Stamkos (1) had the assists on Kucherov’s 37th career Stanley Cup Playoff goal while the Lightning tied the game, 2-2 at 4:58 of the second period.

Kucherov’s power-play goal would not be the last time that the Bolts struck on the skater advantage.

About midway through the middle frame, Ondrej Palat caught Patric Hornqvist without the puck and was sent to the box for interference at 7:51.

Florida’s resulting skater advantage was cut short when Brandon Montour slashed Killorn at 9:33.

The Panthers managed to kill off Montour’s minor without incident, but found themselves shorthanded yet again when Markus Nutivaara tripped Anthony Cirelli at 12:56.

This time, in the dying seconds of the ensuing power play, Kucherov (2) sent another one of his patented one-timers past Bobrovsky’s glove side to put the Lightning back on top, 3-2, with a power-play goal.

Hedman (2) and Stamkos (2) once again had the assists on Kucherov’s goal at 14:51.

Moments later, as the clock was winding down with about 90 seconds left in the period, Ryan Lomberg and Coleman started going at it after a stoppage in play, yielding roughing minors for each player at 18:30.

Through 40 minutes of action at BB&T Center, the Lightning led the Panthers, 3-2, on the scoreboard, despite Florida outshooting Tampa, 29-26, in total shots on goal.

The Bolts actually held the advantage in shots in the second period alone, however, as Tampa outshot Florida, 16-11, in the middle frame.

Florida dominated in just about everything else, though, heading into the second intermission ahead of the Lightning in blocked shots (15-9), takeaways (5-4), giveaways (7-5), hits (41-23) and faceoff win% (54-46).

The Panthers were 1/3 and the Lightning were 2/3 on the power play heading into the final frame.

Huberdeau (1) tallied his first goal of the postseason off of a turnover– turned breakaway– before beating Vasilevskiy with a shot through the Lightning netminder’s five-hole.

Bennett (1) and Owen Tippett (1) tallied the assists as the Panthers tied the game, 3-3, at 1:27 of the third period on Huberdeau’s goal.

Florida capitalized on the surge in momentum less than a few minutes later as Tippett (1) one-timed a shot past the Tampa goaltender to give the Panthers a, 4-3, lead at 4:09.

Huberdeau (2) and Bennett (2) had the assists on Tippett’s first career Stanley Cup Playoff goal.

About a minute later, Cirelli and Mason Marchment got in a scrum and yielded roughing infractions leading to more 4-on-4 action at 5:39.

Midway through the third, Bennett was penalized for charging and presented Tampa with a power play at 12:19.

The Bolts capitalized on the ensuing advantage as Point (1) chipped a slap pass on the far side of the mostly vacant net as Bobrovsky was out of position– tying the game, 4-4, in the process.

Kucherov (1) and Hedman (3) had the assists on Point’s power-play goal at 13:00 of the third period.

Almost six minutes later, McDonagh fed Point a lead pass– sending Point into the attacking zone on a breakaway whereby Point (2) slipped the rubber biscuit through Bobrovsky’s five-hole to give the Lightning a, 5-4, lead at 18:46.

McDonagh (2) had the only assist on what became the game-winning goal as the Panthers had no answer for Tampa, despite pulling Bobrovsky for an extra attacker with about 33.5 seconds left in the action.

At the final horn, the Lightning had won, 5-4, and stolen Game 1 on the road.

The Bolts finished the night ahead in shots on goal, 40-39, including a, 14-10, advantage in the third period alone.

Meanwhile, Florida wrapped up Sunday night’s game leading in blocked shots (17-16) and hits (54-36). Tampa led Game 1 in giveaways (12-9) and faceoff win% (52-48).

The Panthers finished 1/3 and the Lightning went an impressive 3/4 on the power play in Game 1.

Tampa takes a 1-0 series lead heading into Game 2 on Tuesday night at BB&T Center.

Puck drop is scheduled for a little after 8 p.m. ET and fans in the United States can catch national coverage on CNBC, while those in Canada can watch the next part of the Battle of Florida on SNE or TVAS.