Was there ever any doubt how this game would end? Down a goal and the Florida Panthers needing a power play goal to tie it. A power play that has vexed them all post season as they converted just one of their thirty previous chances. For the next two minutes it was the Tampa Bay Lightning flinging themselves in front of the puck and Andrei Vasilevskiy stopping the few shots that went through. Nothing crossed the goal line except for Mikhail Sergachev who scrambled behind his goaltender to add an extra layer of defense. As the power play expired, Ondrej Palat tapped a long clearing pass into the empty net and it was over. The Lightning had won the game 2-0 and the series 4-0.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was the star, ending yet another series with a shutout as he posted 49 saves. It was Pat Maroon, of all people, that scored the game-winning goal in the third after the Lightning had not one, but two goals pulled off the board after challenges from the Panthers’ coaching staff.
Give the Panthers credit, they left nothing on the ice, firing 82 shot attempts and driving the action for most of the game. Chalk up another 18 blocked shots for the Lightning who, may have been way behind on the shot counter (49-25) but they found quality in their chances posting 13 high-danger chances to Florida’s 9. Sergei Bobrovsky was on point as well, stopping 24 of 25 shots (not counting the two that were overturned).
Florida came out pretty strong and aggressive, working hard along the boards in the Lightning zone. They built an early shot advantage by throwing as much as they could towards the net. Vasilevskiy was sharp early and, as usual, got plenty of help from his teammates.
Temperatures ramped up a bit midway through when Anthony Cirelli went hard to the Panthers’ net and crashed into Bobrovsky. He went to the penalty box and the Lightning went into penalty kill mode. Erik Cernak had a great sliding block as Florida failed to get a shot on net.
Florida controlled the flow of play for most of the period, limiting the Lightning to just 12 shot attempts and 2 high-danger chances. The best opportunity for the Lightning came when Nick Paul picked off a Sam Reinhart pass in the offensive zone and whistled a backhander just over the net. As much as the Lightning bent in that period, they did not break, blocking 12 shots while Vasilevskiy stopped the 17 shots that made it on net.
It was more of the same to start the second period with the Lightning having an occasional look at the net. After Carter Verhaeghe rang it off a couple of posts the Lightning went down and scored. Alex Killorn tipped a shot from Mikhail Sergachev passed Bobrovsky.
But wait! There is a review. A lengthy review as the officials tried to determine if the puck hit the netting before the shot.
The Panthers challenge for a missed stoppage. Brunette went 2-0 in the regular season + 0-1 in the postseason (and the resulting penalty led to a PPG against by TBL).— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 24, 2022
Brunette's 1st 'missed stoppage' challenge. Second challenge of this type in the playoffs (Cooper, 1-0). pic.twitter.com/dpt8rmE1DB
After a nice tea break it was finally decided that the puck did hit the net and thus no goal.
If there is any team built to withstand a questionable call that pulled a goal off of the board, it’s the Lightning. And it looked like they had done that a few minutes later as Nikita Kucherov sniped one past Bob off of a face-off. Take that!
Wait, what? Another review? How could this be reviewed?
Not so fast... Cirelli passes with his hands after the draw.— Shayna (@hayyyshayyy) May 24, 2022
Once again, there's a Coach's Challenge for a missed stoppage. Should be a minor penalty as well, but...
Brunette now is 2-1 on challenges in the playoffs, 2-0 for missed stoppages. pic.twitter.com/2zr9EtTF60
Oh yeah, Cirelli played it with his hand over to Kucherov. In a vacuum it’s the right call, but you can imagine how well it went with the Lightning faithful. While two goals would have been nice, the calls going against them did seem to wake the Lightning up a bit. While they didn’t quite dominate the rest of the period they did hold their own a little better, even drawing a penalty. Sadly the ensuing power play (like their first one) was slightly underwhelming.
The Lightning saved their best period for the third period Brandon Hagel had a golden opportunity early in the third period as Ryan McDonagh sent him in alone on Bobrovsky. Unfortunately the Florida netminder was up to the challenge and snuffed it out.
A three-on-one was left wanting a few minutes later as Ondrej Palat’s shot sailed over the net. Cracks were starting to appear in the Florida defense, but Bobrovsky was the spackle holding things together. Until he wasn’t.
Zach Bogosian made a nice keep at the blue line and lobbed a shot at the net. Pat Maroon happened to be cutting in front of the net and was able to deflect it down behind Bobrovsky who ended up kicking it into his own net before Hagel crashed into the crease.
Pat Maroon (Zach Bogosian) 1-0 Lightning
A quick review confirmed that there was nothing that could be used to call the goal back and the Lightning had the lead. A Barkov high-sticking penalty quickly followed but the Lightning weren’t able to capitalize on the power play. They did look a little better than they had on their two previous chances, but Florida was in desperation mode and did a really good job of limiting dangerous chances.
With the clock ticking down (way too slowly it seemed) the Lightning continued to push the Panther chances to the outside and protect the front of the net. When a puck did get through, Vasy was there to stop it. MacKenzie Weegar cross-checked Killorn to the ice with eight minutes to go and another power play was left wanting, but did take another two minutes off of Florida’s season.
Aaron Ekblad rang one off the post as the Panthers came tantalizingly close to tying things up. With time creeping down Ondrej Palat, from the same corner where he flipped a puck into the netting that led to the first disallowed goal, fired the puck into the netting for a penalty.
Florida controlled play but chose to wait until there was just a minute or so left in the man-advantage to pull the goaltender. It wasn’t enough and Vasilevskiy made one last big save. The puck came out to Cirelli who fired it down the ice. The only player near it was Ondrej Palat, who had just exited the penalty box, and with a sense of relief that the penalty had been killed, he tapped it into the empty net.
Ondrej Palat (Anthony Cirelli) Empty Net, 2-0 Lightning
The series was over. The league’s highest scoring offense was held to just three goals in a four-game sweep and the defending champs bounced back from two overturned goals to finish things off.
What. A. Freaking. Team.