Peak ‘Playoff Bob’ came out with unreal save in Panthers’ overtime win over Lightning

Aaron Ekblad watched from the bench “in shock.” Paul Maurice was “using unkind language” and “profanity straight down the ice” because of how the situation unfolded.

Sergei Bobrovsky, the star of the play that was about to unfold, was merely making a move out of desperation.

But when the Stanley Cup Playoffs come around, Bobrovsky becomes “Playoff Bob.”

And plays like the one he made late in the second period of the Florida Panthers’ eventual 3-2 overtime win over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Tuesday showed exactly why teammates have so much trust in Bobrovsky.

The setup: With about six minutes left in the second period and the game tied 2-2, Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos slid a pass past Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk to defenseman Matt Dumba.

Bobrovsky was completely out of position with his back to Dumba and the net virtually wide open as the Lightning defenseman fired a shot.

But Bobrovsky didn’t quit on the play. He ranged across the crease and with his back facing outward managed to stop the puck with his right arm to keep the game tied.

The sellout crowd at Amerant Bank Arena then erupted into “Bob-by” chants.

“I tried to throw as much body as possible,” Bobrovsky said. “Yeah, I was able to make the save.”

It was arguably the biggest moment of a stellar end of the game for Bobrovksy. After giving up a pair of goals in the opening six minutes of the second period to allow Tampa Bay to tie the game, Bobrovsky stopped the final 16 shots that came his way to keep the game tied until Carter Verhaeghe scored the game-winner 2:59 into overtime to give Florida a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series.

“Bob has been unbelievable,” Verhaeghe said. “He’s our backbone back there. I mean, it’s crazy. Every night, he amazes me. That was a huge save at a huge time. ... It seems like every time he needs to be there, he’s there and he’s unbelievable.”

Added defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson: “We know that he can make those saves, but that was something else.”

Maurice said the save ranks among the “top 10” he has seen in the playoffs.

“It’s just determination and will,” Maurice said.

Florida Panthers goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky (72) blocks a shot against Tampa Bay Lightning left wing <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Anthony Duclair;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Anthony Duclair</a> (10) in the third period in Game 2 of the first-round of the 2024 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amerant Bank Arena on Tuesday, April 23, 2024, in Sunrise, Fla. MATIAS J. OCNER/

And while that save will be remembered, so too should everything else Bobrovsky did on Tuesday. Bobrovsky faced 11 high-danger shots and only allowed one of those to get past him. He went toe-to-toe with Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy and gave the Panthers enough of an opportunity to rally and take a 2-0 lead in the series.

“In the game, especially in the playoffs, it’s so much fun to play,” Bobrovsky said. “There are momentum swings back and forth. It’s kind of like a roller coaster. You’re just trying to stay with the moment and focus. Those little things build up.”