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Lightning stifle Panthers offense and take 2-0 lead in the series

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Hey there Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Tampa Bay Lightning v Florida Panthers - Game Two Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning completed the sweep of the first two games of their first round series against the Florida Panthers with a 3-1 win on Tuesday night. Andrei Vasilevskiy returned to form with 32 saves on 33 shots while Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, and Yanni Gourde provided the offense.

Chris Driedger took the loss for the Panthers in his playoff debut as he had 26 saves on 28 shots. Mason Marchment provided the lone goal for the Panthers. The game was subdued compared to the opening match of the series with just nine penalties called between the two teams.

The Lightning came out with a little more vigor at even strength and took the lead just five minutes into the game. It was The Captain banking one in off of old friend Anton Stralman to give the Bolts the lead and silence the raucous Florida crowd a bit.

Steven Stamkos (Alex Killorn, David Savard)

The Panthers pushed back after the Stamkos goal, keeping the puck in the Lightning zone for long stretches of time, but weren’t really able to get really good looks on net. When they did manage to get a puck on net, Vasilevskiy was there to stop it.

With an early deficit, it seemed the Panthers weren’t quite as willing to engage with the extracurricular activities that led to so many penalties and four-on-four situations in Game One. There was still a little pushing and shoving, but nothing that raised the interest of the referees.

The Lightning added the all-important second goal with five minutes left in the period. It wasn’t an exciting play, just solid positioning and puck retrieval by the Bolts. Brayden Point rang it off the post and Palat was in the right spot to clean up the rebound. Nikita Kucherov picked up yet another point on the goal.

Ondrej Palat (Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov)

The second period started out with something that was absent from the first - a power play. After MacKenzie Weeger chipped the puck over the glass just 30 seconds into the period, the Lightning went on the power play. Unfortunately, they weren’t able to convert with the extra skater and Florida managed to keep all four of their shot attempts away from their goalie.

Tampa Bay did a really good job of negating Florida’s offense at even strength by playing sound positional hockey and not turning the puck over. Bottling up their speed kept Florida from getting their offense going and, while the Lightning weren’t exactly dominating on offense, they were playing well with the lead.

A Florida power play went by the wayside, but shortly after the offspring of a former Bolt found the back of the net for the Panthers and provided a little life to the building. Mason Marchment, son of former Bryan, found some open ice in front of Vasilevskiy and redirected a pass from old friend Carter Verhaeghe.

Mason Marchement (Carter Verhaeghe, Alex Barkov)

The Panthers weren’t able to build on the momentum of the goal as the Lightning did a good job of keeping the shots to the outside and while the possession numbers favored Florida by a wide margin they weren’t able to add to their goal total. A late hit at the end of the period by Weegar on Blake Coleman led to a penalty on the Panthers.

Sadly, the Lightning could not convert on their advantage, but neither could the Panthers who picked up a power play with Kucherov in the box. The game settled into a slight back and forth with the tension mounting as time ticked down. Midway through the period, Pat Maroon, last seen chicken dancing at the end of the second, tripped up Stralman and the Panthers went back to the power play.

The Lightning killed that one as well with Vasilevskiy looking sharp in net. Florida tried to press the play throughout the period, but the Lightning didn’t budge. Playing perhaps their best defensive game in weeks, the Bolts frustrated the Panthers attack time and time again.

They eventually pulled Driedger and it cost them as Yanni Gourde picked off a pass in the neutral zone and fired it into the empty net (playoff empty net goals get highlights).

Yanni Gourde (unassisted)

A little frustration at the end of the game led to a Panthers’ penalty and the Lightning were able to spend the remainder of the game on the power play.

The series takes I-75 north to Tampa and resumes on Thursday. Expect a strong push from Florida to begin the game as they face a 2-0 deficit.