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The Panthers aren’t out yet. Not by a long shot.
After years of pain, Florida showed real signs of progress in 2019-20 and took it to the next level this season with a 37-14-5 record. They have one of the best offensives in the league, their deep, and their defense is strong, but they also have the tough task of facing the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning in the first round.
The Panthers held in there in the first two games of the series in Florida, but Tampa Bay ultimately claimed both contests. With the series going to Tampa Bay on Thursday, the Panthers needed a win to avoid having their backs against the wall. It wasn’t the prettiest win, but they managed a 6-5 victory over Tampa Bay last night.
Florida showed off its offensive strength and depth with their overtime goal ironically coming from Ryan Lomberg, who hasn’t been much of an offensive contributor at the NHL level. That said, playoff heroes aren’t always who you expect. Often times the stars will keep their team in a game, but it’s the supporting cast that ends up being the X-Factor that makes or breaks a team. Last night, a member of that supporting cast gave the Panthers new life. We’ll see if they can build on that when the series continues Saturday afternoon.
FLORIDA 6 TAMPA BAY 5 (OT) (Lightning lead series 2-1)
Chris Driedger stopped 17 of 22 shots through 40 minutes. At that point, the Panthers were down 5-3, but Sergei Bobrovsky stepped in and saved nine shots the rest of the way to aide Florida in their comeback win.
Patric Hornqvist, Alex Wennberg, Radko Gudas, and Gustav Forsling each contributed a goal and an assist for Florida. Ryan Lomberg netted the overtime winner despite having two goals in 45 career regular season games prior to the 2021 playoffs.
Jonathan Huberdeau assisted on three of Florida’s six goals. He’s up to a goal and six points in three playoff contests.
Brayden Point scored a goal and registered an assist for Tampa Bay. He has three goals and five points in the series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy turned aside 41 of 47 Panthers shots. This is the second time in the series that he’s allowed at least four goals, though to be fair the Lightning haven’t done a great job of containing the Panthers. Florida has recorded at least 33 shots in each contest so far.
PITTSBURGH 5 NY ISLANDERS 4 (Penguins lead series 2-1)
Jason Zucker found the back of the net at 18:03 of the second period. At the time it gave Pittsburgh a 3-1 lead that they took into the third period.
The Islanders mounted two comeback attempts though in the third. The first came when Cal Clutterbuck and Anthony Beauvillier scored at 3:46 and 5:54 respectively to square the game at 3. For Beauvillier it was his first goal and second point of the series.
Jeff Carter put the Penguins back on top with a power-play goal just 1:06 minutes later. That was Carter’s second goal of the game, giving him three goals and four points in three playoff games.
Clutterbuck scored again at 14:17 to tie the game back up. This game featured his first two goals and points of the series.
Brandon Tanev scored what proved to be the game-winning goal at 16:24 of the third frame. He was held off the scoresheet in the first two games of the series.
Tristan Jarry stopped 26 of 30 Islanders shots. He’s 2-1 with a 2.74 GAA and .917 save percentage in three playoff starts.
At the other end of the ice, Semyon Varlamov saved 22 of 27 shots. He dropped to 0-2 with a 3.62 GAA and .903 save percentage in the 2021 postseason.
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MONTREAL 2 TORONTO 1 (Canadiens lead series 1-0)
This is unfortunately one of those games that was overshadowed by a scary injury. Montreal’s Ben Chiarot delivered an open ice hit to John Tavares that knocked him to the ice. That alone might not have been noteworthy except that Corey Perry was rushing behind the two when it happened, and the result is that Perry accidentally kicked Tavares’ in he head. Tavares’ reaction immediately following the blow was hard to watch and he needed to be taken off the ice on a stretcher. Hopefully Tavares will make a full recovery. He did give a thumbs up on the stretcher, so that was an encouraging sign. It’s also worth giving credit to the Canadiens’ Twitter account for their well wishes following the incident.
Josh Anderson got the scoring started with a goal at 12:08 of the first period. The Canadiens forward had 17 goals and 24 points in 52 regular season games.
Paul Byron netted a shorthanded goal that proved to be the game winner. He’s up to three goals and six points in 17 career playoff contests.
Carey Price stopped 35 of 36 Maple Leafs shots. He had a 2.64 GAA and .901 save percentage in 25 starts in the regular season.
Toronto’s only goal was scored by William Nylander. He has six goals and 16 points in 26 career playoff contests.
Jack Campbell turned aside 28 of 30 shots last night. This was his first career playoff start and while he got the loss, he held his own.
VEGAS 5 MINNESOTA 2 (Golden Knights lead series 2-1)
After two challenging starts to open the playoffs, Marc-Andre Fleury had a much lighter work night on Thursday. He turned aside 14 of 16 shots. He faced just five shots in the second period and four in the third.
The game was extremely one-sided for the final 40 minutes, but the first period was an entirely different story. Ryan Hartman and Joel Eriksson Ek each scored within the first 8:30 minutes of the game to give Minnesota a 2-0 lead that was held for the rest of the period.
Mark Stone scored the Golden Knights’ first goal and added a second late in the third period. He has two goals and three points in three playoff games.
Reilly Smith scored the game-winning goal and registered an assist. That gives him a goal and three points in three postseason contests.
Cam Talbot saved 35 of 39 Golden Knights shots. After earning a 42-save shutout in Game 1, he’s allowed seven goals over his last two starts.