Lightning win special teams battle and game as they defeat Panthers, 4-1

Three power play goals and a perfect penalty kill are the difference.

The Tampa Bay Lightning scored three times on the power play (despite not having Brayden Point) to propel themselves to a 4-1 win in Game One of their second round series against the Florida Panthers. Corey Perry, Nikita Kucherov, and Ross Colton scored with the extra skater while Pierre-Edouard Bellemare had the game-winner at even strength. Anthony Duclair scored the lone goal for the Panthers.

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped 33-of-34 shots in another excellent outing. The defense in front of him did a good job of keeping the shooting lanes clear and cleaning up any of the rebounds he had. Sergei Bobrovsky wasn’t challenged early in the game and ended up with 32 saves on 36 shots, with just one of the goals allowed at even strength.

With Braydon Point out due to an injury, Coach Cooper decided to go with the 11/7 rotation with Jan Rutta entering the line-up. It proved to be a good decision as the Lightning would lose Erik Cernak to a blocked shot in the second period.

The Lightning really came out skating well and had Florida chasing them around. When one team is chasing, that usually means penalties aren’t far behind. Sure enough just 27 seconds into the game Mackenzie Weegar was into the box for tripping Ondrej Palat. Shorthanded, the Panthers did a good job of collapsing down low and not allowing any cross-ice passes.

Tampa Bay wasn’t able to generate any real dangerous opportunities on this man-advantage, nor on the one they picked up five minutes after this one expired. After the second successful defense, Florida found their offense and started directing some shots toward Vasilevskiy. While they picked up their shot volume, they didn’t really have much going from dangerous areas.

It was on the transition that they found a little success. Anthony Duclair, who only had one shot on net in the Panthers first round, opened the scoring as he finished off a nice play on the rush. Jonathon Huberdeau entered the zone and found a seam that he was able to slide a pass over to Duclair. Vasilevskiy seemed to track it pretty well and it appeared he may have actually slid over a little too quickly as he wasn’t quite balanced when Duclair released his shot.

Anthony Duclair (Jonathon Huberdeau, Brandon Montour) 1-0 Panthers

There just wasn’t enough offensive pressure from the Lightning in the first period. Despite the two power plays they only generated 13 shot attempts and 4 scoring chances. At 5v5 the Panthers had the better quality of play with 11 scoring chances of which 5 were considered high-danger. The Lightning’s best chance came at the end of the period when Kucherov was able to give Ondrej Palat some room in front of the net, but the veteran wasn’t able to get a shot off.

It was Tampa Bay going down a skater early in the second as Ryan McDonagh went to the box for holding the stick. The power play was dealt with fairly easily, but offense continued to be a problem through the period as the Lightning just weren’t very crisp with the puck, missing passes and flubbing it off of their stick when they did have it.

There was a four-on-four stretch as Ross Colton and Ben Chiarot got into a cross-check battle in front of the Florida net. It looked like Chiarot added a little head-butt at the end of their discussion, but it wasn’t called (nor was it anywhere near the same as the one Darnell Nurse was suspended for in the Edmonton/L.A. series).

Nothing happened with the open ice, nor on the Florida power play that followed. Well, nothing other than Erik Cernak blocking a shot during a scramble that sent the big defenseman to the dressing room. Cal Foote also missed a large portion of the period, leaving the Lightning with just five defensemen.

The Lightning got a third crack at the power play when Kucherov buzzed by Weegar and forced a hooking call. That would be the second best play Kucherov made in a 30-second period of game time. On the ensuing power play he found a little space and then deked Aaron Ekblad into the next zip code before feeding the puck to Corey Perry who basically tapped it into an empty net.

Corey Perry (Nikita Kucherov) Power Play, 1-1

It was Ross Colton and Brandon Hagel causing trouble early in the third as Colton whipped one off the blocker on a centering pass and then Bobrovsky had to make a nice save on a deflection in front a few seconds later.

Following that shift, Coach Cooper put the fourth line out there and Corey Perry snapped a shot off of the face-off that Bobrovsky couldn’t cover up. Pierre-Edouard Bellemare whipped the rebound home to give the Lightning the lead. (For the record, Cal Foote was back on the ice by this time).

Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (Corey Perry) 2-1 Lightning

With the lead, the Lightning were solid in their defensive coverage, denying second chances to the Panthers as the clock wound down. With under nine minutes to go, Duclair put the puck into the net on a Panthers’ power play to apparently tie the game. After a brief argument from Coach Cooper and a huddle by the refs, it was confirmed that the puck had left the area of play (it hit the net behind Vasy) on a previous shot. No goal.

What’s good for the goose is good for the gander as the Lightning had a power play shortly after and it appeared that Nikita Kucherov had scored to make it 3-1. However, Anthony Cirelli was providing a screen in front of Sergei Bobrovsky and made contact with the goaltender just as the shot was being released. Florida challenged and....the goal stood. Huh. How about that?

Nikita Kucherov (Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos) Power Play, 3-1 Lightning

To add insult to a failed challenge, Ross Colton swatted home a rebound off of a deflected shot from Sergachev to make it 4-1.

Ross Colton (Nick Paul, Mikhail Sergachev) Power Play, 4-1 Lightning

That was it for the scoring despite Florida pulling the netminder for the extra attacker. The Lightning swung home-ice advantage to their favor with the win and will look to put the Panthers in a deep hole on Thursday by taking Game Two.

After two periods of the Panthers controlling play at even strength, the Lightning responded with their best period of the game in the third. Not only did they pick up the two power play goals, they also controlled things at 5v5 with a 6-1 edge in high-danger shots and a 65.08 xGF%.