The Tampa Bay Lightning are now one win away from another Easter Conference Finals after beating the Florida Panthers 5-1 on home ice in Game 3. They are up 3-0 on the President’s Trophy winners, reducing their offense down to just one goal in each of these three games.
Erik Cernak scored the game-winning goal in the second period, with Corey Perry scoring in the first. Nikita Kucherov took home three points, including an empty net goal. Steven Stamkos had two goals including a second empty net goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 34 of 35 shots in the win, the team’s fifth in a row.
The line-up was the same (if it’s working, why change it?) as the Lightning rolled out their 11/7 combination that they’ve been deploying since the Brayden Point injury. It was tested midway through the period when Nick Paul went down the tunnel after a hit from Ben Chiarot.
Vasilevskiy had to be on his toes as Victor Hedman flubbed a pass in the neutral zone that led to a Sam Reinhart breakaway that the forward flipped just high. In the ensuing chaos, Reinhart had another opportunity that Vasy gloved aside.
After they survived that rush, they picked up a power play as Sam Bennett went to the box for holding. The Bolts didn’t score with the extra skater (although Nick Paul did return to the ice), but had a few chances, and just after it expired, Corey Perry tipped a shot from Ryan McDonagh past Sergei Bobrovsky for his 50th career playoff goal.
Corey Perry opened the scoring again, tipping home a point shot from McDonagh. Kucherov got the secondary assist on the 5v5 goal.
[S]COREY PERRY DOES IT AGAIN! ⚡️ pic.twitter.com/ORdS24BKgO— Bally Sports Sun: Lightning (@BallyLightning) May 22, 2022
After the goal, Brandon Hagel crosschecked Eetu Luostarinen into the end boards. At first it was called a major for boarding, but after review the refs changed it to a cross-checking minor.
Hagel gets a major penalty, but after review it's reduced to a minor for crosschecking Luostarinen pic.twitter.com/mK00ubQQmX— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 22, 2022
It didn’t take long for the worst power play in the playoffs to connect as Jonathan Huberdeau walked the puck down low and centered for Reinhart, who one-timed it home.
The Panthers tied the game on the power play (their first goal in 26 opportunities this playoffs. It was Sam Reinhart in the slot from Huberdeau and Barkov.
The Lightning were the better team at even strength to start Game 3, out-shooting the Panthers 17-9. However, the Panthers were getting to the front of the net, and their power play was finally working, so the Lightning would need to make adjustments to get the Panthers away from the middle of the ice.
Just as the broadcast was showing Cernak blocking a shot with his face in the previous game, Cernak scored to give the Lightning the lead once again! The pass from Palat was initially supposed to go to Colton who was coming down into the slot, but the puck slid under his stick to Cernak. Claude Giroux was supposed to cover Cernak, but he went for Colton because he saw the puck going there. That mistake led right to the wide open chance. The two forwards were given the assists.
Another one! The Captain scored once again on the power play. Kucherov stepped into the zone, made a move and passed to Stamkos for his one-timer into the back of the net. The Lightning had killed a penalty earlier where the defense did a great job scrambling and getting those rebounds.
Vintage Steven Stamkos with the go-ahead goal set up by Nikita Kucherov pic.twitter.com/ql1bGnZkYU— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 22, 2022
The Lightning were behind in total shots in the second period, but more importantly they reduced the quality of chances for the Panthers, while scoring two goals themselves.
With his team down, Bennett unsurprisingly ran into Vasilevskiy to try and start a scrum and give his team energy. The Lightning dealt with him quickly, unfazed.
The Panthers kept pushing in the last 10 minutes of the period, but the Lightning were standing tall, especially on the necessary rebounds.
Florida comes so close to pulling within one, but Rutta clears the puck from crossing the goal line. pic.twitter.com/ovRA6ra3XK— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 22, 2022
Another insurance marker with four minutes to go and it’s Kucherov emphatically in the empty net.
Stamkos makes it five with another empty net goal. This one was pretty cool as he sniped it all the way from his own blueline.