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Season ends as Vasilevskiy, Lightning blank Panthers by 4-0 count

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Cats fire blanks and fall in six hard-fought games

Florida Panthers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

The Florida Panthers had their chances, but could not find the back of the net and were eliminated from the playoffs after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s 4-0 victory in Game 6.

Andrei Vasilvelskiy stopped all 29 Florida shots to post his second career postseason shutout as the Lightning advanced to the second round for the eighth time in franchise history.

The Panthers once again failed to advance past the first round and have not won a playoff series since 1996. Disappointing as the Cats’ 2020-21 regular season was its best in franchise history in terms of points percentage (.705). Maybe next year...

Tampa Bay scored on its first shot for the third game in a row to take the lead 6:16 into the action. Tyler Johnson chased down Mikhail Sergachev’s shoot-in behind the net to negate an icing and threw the puck out in front. MacKenzie Weegar got a stick on the pass, but instead of leaving the danger area, the puck hung up in the air and Pat Maroon was able to jam it past Spencer Knight.

Florida had some good oppoturnities that they either didn’t take advantage of of, or were unable to finish off. Owen Tippett passed up a chance to shoot on a 2-on-1 break and Brandon Montour failed to convert a beautiful pass set up from Jonathan Huberdeau on the door step. Vasilevskiy made a big stop on Frank Vatrano’s one-timer as well.

A undiscplined roughing call on Sam Bennett in the second period put the Bolts on the power play and they really put the Cats behind the eight ball when Steven Stamkos one-timed Victor Hedman’s touch pass home from the right circle with 6:33 left in the frame. Nikita Kucherov collected the second assist to hit double-digits in points.

That second goal allowed the Lightning to sit back and defend and quality chances for the Panthers were few and far between the rest of the way.

Brayden Point put the game away when he took Kucherov’s centering pass into the slot, after the speedy wing got to Erilk Cernak’s aerial dump-in, and blew by Weegar before solving Knight on the forehead after the rookie keeper missed the poke-check with 5:24 left in the game.

Cernak and Stamkos would combine to set up Alex Killorn’s empty-netter which completed the scoring.

A game Knight finished the tilt with 20 saves on 23 shots, giving his team a solid chance to win. Unfortunately, his teammates were not up to the task, and its the Lightning how will advance to meet the Carolina Hurricanes or Nashville Predators.

After playing its best game of the series in Game 5, the Cats just didn’t quite have “it” and were not able to stave off elimination to get the series back home to the BB&T Center for Game 7. Like every game in the series, the Panthers were the better team for stretches, but were too reluctant to pull the trigger and couldn’t bang in any rebounds when they did. As in the opening game, another dumb penalty by Bennett really hurt and put the Bolts in prime position to close things out. The effort the Cats gave in the series was probably good enough to beat quite a few of the other teams that made the playoffs this season, just not the defending champs. A more composed, opportunistic Tampa Bay team, wonky goaltending, glaring defensive lapses, penalty kill fails, questionable officiating, an almost complete lack of finishing touch in Games 2 and 6, and not much of anything from certain members of the supporting cast cost the Panthers. The blown lead and late breakaway goal in the third period of Game 1 loomed large over the rest of the series. While it hurts majorly today, the Cats made huge strides this season, and with Bill Zito at the helm, a brighter future seems to be ahead.

Shock & Aww

  • Jonathan Huberdeau led the Panthers with 10 points (2G/8A) over the six-game series, setting a franchise record for most assists and points in a playoff series. Coming into tonight’s game, Huberdeau recorded four total and three consecutive multi-point effort performances in the series.
  • Nikita Kucherov’s two-assist performance allowed him to pass Huberdeau as the leading scoring in the playoffs. After missing the entire regular season, Kucherov racked up 11 points in the series.
  • Four different Panthers notched two goals in the series: Hubderdeau, Patric Hornqvist, Mason Marchment and Carter Verhaeghe.
  • Aleksander Barkov was held off the score sheet for the first time in the series. He finished the game with two shots on goal and -3 rating. The Panthers needed more from their best player, especially last night, but it’s hard to criticize as Barkov was clearly injured and not his usual self.
  • 13 different Panthers recorded multiple points over the six-game matchup, including two rookies: Owen Tippett (1G/3A) and Mason Marchment (2G), and four defensemen: MacKenzie Weegar (1G/2A), Radko Gudas (1G/1A), Gustav Forsling (1G/1A), and Keith Yandle (2A). Marchment was the first rookie in club history to record multiple playoff goals.
  • Radko Gudas led the Panthers with 39 hits over the series.
  • With his win in Game 5, Spencer Knight became the youngest goaltender in franchise history to record a playoff victory, and the youngest goaltender in NHL history to win a playoff game when facing elimination. Can’t wait to see more of Knight in 2021-22.
  • For more on the Lightning’s series-ending win, plug into Raw Charge.

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