Lightning move into commanding position

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Could the Tampa Bay Lightning be the first team since the 1980s to three-peat? The Montreal Canadiens won four consecutive championships from 1976-1979, the Islanders won the Cup four straight times from 1980-83, and the Edmonton Oilers won five out of seven years from 1984-1990. Back then, dynasties seemed to be the norm rather than the exception, but in the salary cap era keeping at the top of the league for a prolonged period of time is more difficult than ever.

And yet, the Lightning won the Cup in 2020 and 2021 and so far they’ve looked strong in the 2022 playoffs. That’s not to say that their victory is a foregone conclusion, but they moved a step closer on Thursday.

After Tampa Bay managed to push past Florida in Game 1, the Panthers played a tight game against Tampa Bay last night. The Lightning struck first, but Eetu Luostarinen was able to tie the contest late in the second period. The game nearly went to extra time, but Ross Colton scored with just 3.8 seconds remaining to hand the Lightning the win.

Getting scoring from secondary sources like Colton has been part of the Lightning’s strength. Brayden Point missed the game because of an injury. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat were each held to an assist. Alex Killorn, who had 34 goals in the regular season, still hasn’t scored a goal in the 2022 playoffs. And yet, Tampa Bay finds ways to win. Colton and Corey Perry provided the Lightning’s offense on Thursday. Of course, it helps when goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy is at the top of his game. He’s allowed just three goals over his last three starts, which is a big part of the reason the Lightning have won those games.

The Lightning are up 2-0 on the Panthers despite the first two games being in Florida. The series is now heading to Tampa Bay with all the pressure on the Panthers. Even if Florida splits the next two games in Tampa Bay, they’d find themselves at the brink, so Florida really needs to find a way to win both of their next two road games.

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TAMPA BAY 2 FLORIDA 1 (Lightning lead series 2-0)

Corey Perry scored the first goal of the game at 12:06 of the first period. He’s up to four goals and five points in nine playoff contests.

Ross Colton accounted for Tampa Bay’s other goal. It was his fifth goal and seven points in nine postseason games.

Andrei Vasilevskiy saved 35 of 36 Panthers shots. This was his 55th career playoff win, which puts him ahead of Terry Sawchuk for sole possession of 18th place on the all-time list. Tuukka Rask holds the 17th post with 57 career postseason victories.

Eetu Luostarinen found the back of the net for Florida. He has a goal and two points in eight playoffs games.

Sergei Bobrovsky kicked out 26 of 28 shots last night. He’s 4-4 with a 2.86 GAA and .906 save percentage in eight starts.

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ST. LOUIS 4 COLORADO 1 (Series tied at 1-1)

Jordan Binnington was nearly able to steal Game 1, but ultimately the Blues didn’t provide him with enough support. Things were different this time. David Perron scored two goals, including the game winner, to push the Blues to victory. He’s up to seven goals and 11 points in eight playoff contests.

St. Louis also got goals from Jordan Kyrou and Brandon Saad. Pavel Buchnevich registered two assists for the Blues.

Although St. Louis did far better offensively in Game 2, they still counted on Binnington to play a solid game and he delivered. He saved 30 of 31 shots to improve to 4-1 with a 1.75 GAA and .948 save percentage in five playoff starts this year.

At the other end of the ice, Darcy Kuemper stopped 28 of 31 shots. He has a 3-1 record, 1.99 GAA, and .923 save percentage in five postseason games.

Gabriel Landeskog netted the Avalanche’s lone goal. He has four goals and nine points in six playoff games.