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.
Jon Cooper said Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Andrei Vasilevskiy all playing tomorrow after their body maintenance days. Said they have to manage Kucherov workload in his return, listen to him. "He went from zero to 60, with nothing in between." #tblightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) May 21, 2021
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
Ondrej Palat - Brayden Point - Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn - Anthony Cirelli - Steven Stamkos
Ross Colton - Yanni Gourde - Blake Coleman
Pat Maroon - Tyler Johnson - Mathieu Joseph
Victor Hedman - Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh - Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev - David Savard
Florida Panthers Lines
Mason Marchment - Aleksander Barkov - Carter Verhaeghe
Jonathan Huberdeau - Sam Bennett - Owen Tippett
Frank Vatrano - Alex Wennberg - Patrik Hornqvist
Ryan Lomberg - Noel Acciari - Anthony DuClair
Gustav Forsling - MacKenzie Weegar
Radko Gudas - Brandon Montour
Markus Nutivaara - Anton Stralman