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Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers Preview: Bolts look to avoid a potential Florida comeback

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It’s a 12:30 PM game.

NHL: MAY 20 Stanley Cup Playoffs First Round - Panthers at Lightning Photo by Andrew Bershaw/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Florida Panthers: ROUND 1, GAME 4

Time: 12:30 PM Eastern Time

Location: Amalie Arena

Broadcast/Streaming: CNBC, TVAS2, BSSUN, BSFL

Opponent SBNation Site: Litter Box Cats

The Tampa Bay Lightning dropped Game 3 against the Florida Panthers on Thursday night, despite an explosive third period where they scored five goals. The Lightning’s performance wasn’t necessarily bad, but their inconsistent play uncovered some of their weak sides, which the Lightning’s coaching staff needs to adjust to prevent a possible Florida comeback.

The Lightning are still struggling to mantain possession at 5-on-5. The expected goal share has dropped from 44.31 xGF% in Game 1 to 38.92 xGF% in Game 3, which is not a good sign. The Panthers also continue to lead in the shot department, limiting the Bolts to only 40.95 CF% in the latest game. The Lightning’s play in the first two games were boosted by their power play, which received reinforcement from a recovered Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy’s performance in Game 2.

Speaking of Vasilevskiy, the Russian goaltender has proven again how crucial his performance is to the overall team’s success. Vasilevskiy allowed six goals in a playoff game for the second time in his career and while some of the fault is on the defence, a goaltender of his level is expected to stop some of these goals, including the overtime winner by Ryan Lomberg. If the Lightning aim is to reach the Stanley Cup Final again, Vasilevskiy needs to stay sharp and consistent.

Nikita Kucherov worried some of the Lightning’s fans by not showing up at yesterday’s practice, but as it was announced after, he, Vasilevskiy and Hedman had a body maintenance day yesterday and will play tonight. Per Jon Cooper, they’re trying not to overload Kucherov, who went from a four-month absence to playing 22-23 minutes per game.

Meanwhile the Panthers will rely on Sergei Bobrovsky in tonight’s game. Bobrovsky replaced Chris Driedger in the net for the period of Game 3, after he allowed five goals during the second period. Bobrovsky played 25 minutes in that game, stopping all nine shots by Tampa Bay.

The Lightning haven’t lost two playoff games in a row since their first-round swept against the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019 and haven’t won a home game in playoffs since ECF against the Washington Capitals in 2018. One of this series will end tonight.

Tampa Bay Lightning Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov

Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos

Ross Colton - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman

Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Mathieu Joseph

Defense

Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Curtis McElhinney

Florida Panthers Lines

Forwards

Mason Marchment - Aleksander Barkov - Carter Verhaeghe

Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Owen Tippett

Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Patrik Hornqvist

Ryan Lomberg - Noel Acciari - Anthony DuClair

Defense

Gustav Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar

Radko Gudas - Brandon Montour

Markus Nutivaara - Anton Stralman

Goalies

Sergei Bobrovsky

Chris Driedger