Ryan Lomberg’s first of shot on goal was Game 3’s last as the scrappy fourth line wing beat Andrei Vasilveskiy on a breakaway 5:56 into overtime to give the Florida Panthers a 6-5 win in an absolutely wild one from AMALIE Arena in Tampa.
After a Noel Acciari faceoff win in the Panthers end, Radko Gudas flipped the puck into the neutral zone, where Frank Vatrano deftly jabbed it past Victor Hedman, allowing Lomberg to speed past the flat-footed defender and give the Panthers franchise its first playoff overtime win in a quarter century with a rising forehand shot.
The Panthers had to overcome a 5-3 third period deficit after playing their worst period of the season during a horrific second stanza. Tampa Bay blitzed the crumbling Cats for five goals on just 12 shots in the middle frame, leaving Florida’s season on the brink.
With Ondrej Palat off for boarding, Jonathan Huberdeau picked up his third assist of the night when he passed into the crease and Patric Hornqvist redirected the puck past Vasilevskiy with skate to pull the Cats within one 1:45 into the final frame.
Patric Hornqvist checks in to the office and brings the @FlaPanthers within 1!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) May 21, 2021
: Bally Sports Florida
Download the Bally Sports app!#FLAvsTBL #FearNoOne #NHLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/fMO3MSleR0
Vasilevskiy held the Panthers at bay until late in the game when Alex Wennberg, who provided Florida’s only bright spot in the second with a power-play goal, spotted Gustav Forsling all alone up high on the opposite side and the young Swede whistled a shot through the one-time Vezina-winner’s wickets to tie the score with 3:07 left in regulation.
Gustav Forsling walks in from the point and beats Andrei Vasilevskiy glove-side!— Bally Sports Florida: Panthers (@BallyPanthers) May 21, 2021
: Bally Sports Florida
Download the Bally Sports app!#FLAvsTBL #FearNoOne #NHLPlayoffs pic.twitter.com/iWXdJBhR7B
The Panthers were almost as good in the first period as they were in the third.
On a Panthers rush, Owen Tippett went cross ice to Huberdeau, who sent a long pass back to the other side for the oncoming Sam Bennett, who cracked a backhander into the beckoning twine at the 4:31 mark.
Gudas put the Cats up two when he followed up on his initial shot, which was blocked Palat, and wired the puck just inside the near post from the middle of the right circle. Huberdeau won the offensive draw back to Forsling, who passed across to his partner, Gudas.
So, that’s the good. The bad and ugly all came during the middle twenty, where Panthers defense, Markus Nuutivaara in particular, melted down. The Cats surrendered five goals in a ghastly 16:20 span to the hard-charging Lightning.
Anthony Cirelli, Ross Colton and Steven Stamkos scored even-strength goals to put the Bolts up 3-2 before Wennberg ripped one in to tie things back up, thanks to a great screen by Tippett. After Wennberg’s goal, Brayden Point and Alex Killorn notched power-play markers to provide the home team with a two-goal bulge heading into final frame, where the Lightning were 28-0 this season when entering with the lead.
Florida completely melted down in the second, leaving Chris Driedger hung out to dry with little to no help down low. The beleaguered Driedger (17 saves) wasn’t able to stop the bleeding and was replaced after forty minutes by veteran Sergei Bobrovsky, who stopped all nine shots he faced in relief. Teamwork makes the dream work. It’s too bad that time is running out on this effective tandem.
This game was certainly a tale of two kitties. The Panthers looked like world-beaters in the first and third periods and like an utter train wreck in the second. Somehow they found the fortitude needed to rally and save their season with the unlikeliest of heroes potting the game-winner, joining Mike Hough and Dave Lowry was the only players to ever score a playoff overtime goal for the Cats. The Panthers won for the first time ever when giving up five goals in a period, and the Lightning became the just the third team in NHL history to lose a postseason game after scoring five times in a single period. Wow! I know we are still on the short end of it, but this has been some series!
Shock & Awesome
- Florida’s six goals tonight ties their most goals in a playoff game in franchise history, marking the third time the Panthers have scored six goals in a playoff game (April 17 & 22, 1996 vs. Boston).
- Ryan Lomberg overtime game-winning goal was Florida’s first since Mike Hough scored 8:05 into overtime against the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 1996.
- Jonathan Huberdeau delivered his second three-point game of the series (1G/5A). He is the fifth Panther to record three assists in a playoff game, and the third Panther to record multiple performances of at least three points in the same playoff series (Reilly Smith, April 14 & 17, 2016 vs. New York Islanders, and Ray Sheppard, April 17 & 22, 1996 vs. Boston).
- Sergei Bobrovsky has won each his last three playoff games played in the city of Tampa, dating back to April 10, 2019.
- Sam Bennett scored his first playoff goal as a Panther, his third point of the series. He has produced 18 points (7G/11A) over 12 total games with Florida. He has amassed 22 points (12G/10A) in 32 career playoff games.
- Florida had three players record their first career playoff goals in the game: Gustav Forsling, Radko Gudas and Lomberg. The Gudas and Forsling goals were the second instance of two Cats defensemen scoring their first career playoff goals in the same game (Mike Weaver and Jason Garrison, April 17, 2012 at New Jersey Devils).
- Forsling’s goal at 16:53 of the third period was the latest game-tying goal in franchise history, besting the previous mark of 16:32 set by Marcel Goc in Game 7 of the 2012 Conference Quarterfinals vs. the Devils on April 26, 2012.
- Gudas and Forsling each also added an assist, their first multi-point playoff games of their careers. They are also the third and fourth defensemen in Panthers history to record +3 ratings in a playoff game.
- Gudas logged 8 hits and Ryan Lomberg registered 7 hits as the Panthers out-hit the Bolts 46-40.
- Owen Tippett posted two assists, his second multi-point game of the series. He has posted four points (1G/3A) over the first three playoff games of his career.
- Aleksander Barkov recorded an assist. Barkov, who had trouble making it through this one, has recorded at least a point in each of his past six postseason games.
- Florida recorded a goal on each of their two power play opportunities. The Lighting went 2 for 3 on the power play. The Panthers got the key kill on Anthony Duclair cross-checking penalty that stretched into the fourth period.
- For the sadder side of Game 3 of this zany series, visit Raw Charge.