After the usual slow start we’ve grown accustomed to, the Cats woke up in the second half of the first period and took the lead when Jonathan Huberdeau pulled up on the right side and sent a lovely cross over to Anthony Duclair, who put the puck past Andrei Vasilevskiy for his first career postseason goal with 4:59 left in the frame. Brandon Montour drew the secondary assist on the play.
The Cats power play failed them both early and midway through the second period, and they could not solve Vasilevskiy a second time at 5-on 5 to add to their tenuous lead.
That failure would cost them at 16:22 when Nikita Kucherov made Aaron Ekblad look completely foolish before setting up a wide-open Corey Perry for an all-too-easy finish with MacKenzie Weegar off for hooking.
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare bagged the eventual game-winner 3:35 into third off a scramble after an offensive zone faceoff. No one really won the draw, but Eetu Luostarinen couldn’t get a handle on it after Pat Maroon touched the puck, allowing Perry to take shot at Sergei Bobrovsky. While Bobrovsky made a good first stop, unfortunately the rebound came back out to Bellemare in the slot, who fired it over his arm with the keeper still in a low crouch.
Tampa Bay went up by two with 4:06 remaining in regulation after Gustav Forsling took a costly roughing minor. Nikita Kucherov was given all kinds of time and space to work and he beat Bobrovsky short-side after shooting through Weegar’s legs, with the assists going to Victor Hedman and Steven Stamkos. Anthony Cirelli, who was applying a screen in front, bumped Bobrovsky in the head as the shot was being taken, but the goal withstood Andrew Brunette’s challenge.
The subsequent delay of game penalty put the Bolts right back on the power play and they scored again to wrap it up. Nick Paul deflected Mikhail Sergachev’s shot into Bobrovsky’s pads and Ross Colton converted the rebound at 17:44.
For whatever reason, the Panthers just didn’t seem to have “it” last night. That said, they were playing fine, and actually very well defensively, until the Lightning scored to tie the game. Following yet another terrible power play and Bellemare’s goal early in the third, it was pretty much all Bolts as the Cats failed to generate high-quality scoring chances, with a nice Carter Verhaeghe set up of Claude Giroux being a rare exception, and were eventually let down late by their penalty kill. A lot of the good looks the Panthers had on Vasilevskiy throughout the tilt ended up missing wide. They’ll need to make him more miserable and vastly improve on special teams if they want to win Game 2.
Shock & Awww
- Florida lost Game 1 for the seventh consecutive playoff series. The Panthers last Game 1 win was a 3-0 decision over the New York Rangers in the 1997 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals.
- The Cats power play continues to be an absolute momentum killer. After last night’s 0 for 3 performance, they are 0 for 21 with the man-advantage in the postseason Unfathomable with this kind of firepower on the team.
- Anthony Duclair finally notched his first career NHL playoff goal, and registered two shots. Duclair is the 12th different Panthers skater to score a goal this postseason.
- Andrei Vasilevskiy made 33 saves for the Lightning, while Sergei Bobrovsky stopped 32 shots for the Cats.
- Selke Trophy-finalist Aleksander Barkov posted a team-high five shots on goal, won 14 of his 21 faceoffs and led Florida’s forwards with 23:05 time on ice.Joini
- Joining Barkov with five shots on goal were Tampa Bay’s Ross Colton and Steven Stamkos.
- For more on the game get a morning jolt at Raw Charge.