The Tampa Bay Lightning can advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs with a victory Monday night in Game 5 against the host Florida Panthers in Sunrise, Fla.
Tampa Bay comes into the game holding a 3-1 lead in the best-of-seven series after beating the visiting Panthers 6-2 on Saturday afternoon.
This hotly contested series has had a lot of physical play and altercations after the whistles. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said officials could do a better job of controlling things after the game Saturday had 26 combined penalties with many of them for boarding, roughing and slashing. Five misconducts were handed out.
“When you’re being told by the officials, when our players are being told, ‘Don’t do anything stupid. We’re going to get you,’ so we don’t do anything stupid and the other team’s getting rewarded for it, I just don’t get it,” Cooper said. “It’s just frustrating because people are coming to watch a really intense, good hockey game. You’re looking for a hockey game, and liberties are being taken.”
On Sunday morning, Florida coach Joel Quenneville said he disagreed with Cooper’s assessment that Florida had been getting away with anything.
“I saw some of Coop’s comments there, and I couldn’t disagree more with what he saw and what I saw,” Quenneville said. “It’s been a competitive four games, and I’ll leave it at that.”
The Lightning saw star forward Nikita Kucherov leave the game in the third period after being slashed by Anthony Duclair. Later in the game, defenseman Mikhail Sergachev left after going hard into the boards on a hit by Patric Hornqvist.
Neither injury is thought to be serious, although their status for Game 5 is not known.
The Panthers will be trying to keep their season alive after losing the first two games of the series at home.
Florida won Game 3 on a Ryan Lomberg goal in overtime, but found itself down 5-1 early in the second period on Saturday.
“We just need a bounce-back. It’s do-or-die time,” center Noel Acciari said. “We’re going to leave it all on the ice, and everyone here knows that. We’re not out of this.”
Florida may have yet another change in net Monday. Sergei Bobrovsky started Game 1, replaced Chris Driedger in Game 3 and started Saturday before being pulled in the second after giving up five goals on 14 shots.
Quenneville said he would announce the starter for Game 5 on Monday, but rookie Spencer Knight could get the call for the desperate Panthers.
Knight, 20, was the 13th overall pick of the 2019 NHL Draft and spent the past two years at Boston College and led Team USA to a gold medal at World Juniors.
He signed with the Panthers at the end of April and became the youngest goalie in NHL history to start his career 4-0.
The Panthers announced they would be expanding capacity for Game 5, going up to around 75 percent at the 19,250-seat arena in Sunrise, which could mean of 15,000.
“We’re excited about the opportunity,” Quenneville said. “We’re going to have more fans in the building, and the crowds have been outstanding, the enthusiasm in this playoff environment is something we love. Let’s look to take advantage on home ice.”
–Field Level Media