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Lightning Round: Anthony Cirelli has found his lost offensive touch

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The Lightning player scored two goals in the two last games.

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

Yesterday the Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 6-2 in the fourth game of their first-round matchup. While the game will be mostly remembered by some very questionable officiating and some coward actions of certain Florida players, the individual efforts of some Lightning players should not be overlooked. The Lightning’s overall performance was still far from perfection, but they took most of their chances to earn a victory in this game. Nikita Kucherov recorded four points in his fourth game since returning after his injury, Alex Killorn also recorded four points on the same afternoon in one of the best postseason games of his career.

There’s also another player, whose performance stands out from the others – it’s Anthony Cirelli.

After a breakout 2019-20 season, when Cirelli solidified his spot in the Lightning top-six and finished fourth in the Selke Trophy voting, this Lightning forward took a step back this season. Part of this blame is on his mid-season injury, due to which he missed about two weeks in February. In the last 27 games of the regular season he recorded just four points and scored just one goal. In attempts to boost his confidence, Jon Cooper even tried playing him on the top line with Ondrej Palat and Brayden Point, but this attempt ended in failure. Cirelli’s underlying advanced numbers are still solid, as he finished the regular season with 52.04 xGF% and 53.29 CF% at 5v5 per Evolving-hockey.com, but his GF/60 rate dropped from last season’s 3.18 to 1.92. According to the same website, Cirelli has also seen one of the biggest decrease of GAR, comparing to the previous season.

However, it seems like Cirelli has slowly found his lost offensive touch. Since reuniting with Alex Killorn and Steven Stamkos on the second line, he already recorded four points in four game and ended his goal drought. After playing 28 games without a single goal, he scored two in back-to-back games against Florida, including an opening goal of yesterday’s game, when he took advantage of Radko Gudas mistake and beat Sergey Bobrovsky on a breakaway.

In the first two games against the Panthers this postseason, Cirelli had seven attempts and the Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was pleased that he finally got rewarded offensively in Game 3.

Lightning Links

The Bolts defeated the Panthers in another wrestling hockey game on Saturday afternoon and took a 3-1 lead in the series. A potential second round clinching game is scheduled for 8:00 PM ET on Monday [Raw Charge]

Andrei Vasilevskiy made 39 saves to rebound from his disappointing effort while Sergei Bobrovsky lasted less than two periods as the Panthers starter. Alex Killorn scored twice and Nikita Kucherov recorded four points before leaving the game in the third period following a slash to the back of the knee.

Jon Cooper didn’t have updates on Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev in postgame interview yesterday

The Lightning head coach was frustrated with officiating after yesterday’s game

After scoring a goal yesterday, Ondrej Palat passed Martin St. Louis for the second most playoffs goals in Tampa Bay history.

The Orlando Solar Bears lost to the South Carolina Stingrays after having a two-goal lead in the second period.

Yesterday’s Games

Florida Panthers 2, Tampa Bay Lightning 6 — TBL leads 3-1

The game went completely off the rails by its third period, Nikita Kucherov and Mikhail Sergachev couldn’t finish the game, but the Lightning defeated the Panthers and currently are just one win away from advancing to the second round.

Pittsburgh Penguins 1, New York Islanders 4 — series is tied 2-2

The Isles bounced back after losing two consecutive games tied their series against the Pens. Ilya Sorokin led his team to victory with 29 saves, Oliver Wahlstrom recorded one goal and one assist.

Montreal Canadiens 1, Toronto Maple Leafs 5 — series is tied 1-1

The Leafs secured their first postseason win against Montreal since 1967. Rasmus Sandin scored his first playoff goal and Jack Campbell recorded his first playoff win on Saturday night. Toronto played without their captain John Tavares, who is out indefinitely, after suffering a concussion and a knee injury in Game 1.

Vegas Golden Knights 4, Minnesota Wild 0 — VGK leads 3-1

The Minnesota Wild, one of the most improved teams of the regular season, is one the verge of elimination after losing to the Golden Knights last night. Marc-Andre Fleury made 35 saves in his 16th postseason shutout, Nicolas Roy scored twice for his team.

Today’s Games

Carolina Hurricanes @ Nashville Predators — CAR leads 2-1

2:30 PM ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN, BSSO

Colorado Avalanche @ St. Louis Blues — COL leads 3-0

5:00 PM ET; NBCSN, TVAS, SN360, BSMW, ALT

Boston Bruins @ Washington Capitals — BOS leads 3-1

7:00 PM ET; USA, SN1, TVAS2, NBCSWA, NESH

Edmonton Oilers @ Winnipeg Jets — WPG leads 2-0

7:30 PM ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVAS, SN