Panthers look to bounce back against Lightning in Game 2

NHL Hockey

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost out on having home-ice advantage in the first round by losing their final two regular season games to the Florida Panthers.

Tampa Bay got it right back on Sunday.

By rallying in the third and beating the host Panthers 5-4 in Game 1 on Sunday night, the defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning are back in a familiar spot.

Tampa Bay will try to maintain that momentum Tuesday night in Game 2 in Sunrise, Fla.

“It was quite a hockey game,” said Lightning coach Jon Cooper, whose team trailed by a goal midway through the third. “Two exceptional teams going at it. That’s why it’s the greatest sport in the world. We just witnessed why, that display and those two teams.”

The Panthers will be without one of their top players in Game 2 as center Sam Bennett was handed a one-game suspension Monday for boarding Tampa Bay forward Blake Coleman in the third period on Sunday.

Florida led 4-3 at the time of Bennett’s penalty. Brayden Point scored the first of his two third-period goals to tie the score on the ensuing power play.

The Panthers ended up allowing four special teams goals on Sunday: three on the Tampa Bay power play and one which came short-handed.

“We have moved on,” said Florida captain Aleksander Barkov, who had a goal and an assist in the loss. “It happened. Now we’ve got to concentrate on next game.”

Florida led 2-1 after the first period, but Nikita Kucherov — playing in his first game this season after having hip surgery in December — scored two power play goals in the second.

“I thought Kuch got better and better as the game went on,” Cooper said. “It’s great to have him back.”

The Panthers tied the score on a Jonathan Huberdeau goal early in the third, with Owen Tippett then giving Florida the lead off a nice pass from Huberdeau.

But then Bennett took the penalty against Coleman, and the Lightning had their chance.

“I was proud of the guys,” Cooper said. “We had the one-goal lead when we went into the period, and we coughed it up. But there was no panic on the bench. They found a way, and they’ve done it many times. It was another example tonight.”

The Lightning are expected to have Andrei Vasilevskiy back in net after he gave up four goals on 39 shots Sunday.

By beating the Panthers in Game 1, he snapped a three-game losing streak against Florida to close the regular season.

In his past four games against the Panthers, Vasilevskiy has given up 19 goals.

Sergei Bobrovsky allowed five goals on 40 shots as he lost his first start since April 22 against Carolina.

Florida could turn to Chris Driedger in Game 2 although Joel Quenneville has made no indication that he will do that.

“We faced a good, skilled team up front,” Bobrovsky said. “They’ve got the weapons there. But I thought for most of the time the guys did a great job, 5-on-5 we did a great job. It’s a long series, we just have to put that behind and be fresh for the next one. It’s 0-0 next game.”

–Field Level Media

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