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Lightning’s first-round playoff series set to start Sunday

Tampa Bay faces cross-state rival Florida Panthers for the first time in the postseason.
Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn, left, passes the puck as Panthers left wing Ryan Lomberg, right, defends during the second period of May 10 game in Sunrise. The teams meet again on Sunday in the playoffs.
Lightning defenseman Luke Schenn, left, passes the puck as Panthers left wing Ryan Lomberg, right, defends during the second period of May 10 game in Sunrise. The teams meet again on Sunday in the playoffs. [ LYNNE SLADKY | AP ]
Published May 13
Updated May 14

TAMPA — The Stanley Cup playoffs are upon us, and the Lightning will open their first-round playoff series against the Panthers on Sunday at the BB&T Center in Sunrise. This is the first time the teams have met in the playoffs.

In the schedule announced Thursday, the opener is Sunday at 7:30 p.m. with Game 2 Tuesday at 8 p.m. The series moves to Tampa for Games 3 and 4 on May 20 (6:30 p.m.) and May 22 (12:30 p.m.) at Amalie Arena.

The Lightning’s first four first-round games will be broadcast on Bally Sports Sun and can be streamed through the Bally Sports app or on ballysports.com with pay-TV-service authentication.

First-round games scheduled to be shown on NBC, NBCSN, CNBC or USA will be blacked out locally regardless of whether your service provider has Bally Sports Sun, which will be the case for Frontier cable subscribers and YouTube TV and Hulu streamers.

Beginning with the second round, NBC and its family of networks will broadcast games exclusively.

The Lightning are holding a drive-through pep rally from 9 a.m.-noon Saturday in the parking lot area of where the Sears store was at WestShore Plaza in Tampa, along West Shore Boulevard. Fans can grab playoff yard signs, get their cars decorated and receive other giveaways, including doughnuts from Dunkin’ and rally towels for the first 1,000 cars. There will be live music, and ThunderBug and the Blue Crew will be there.

Fans attending will be asked to stay in their vehicles.

There also are plans for watch parties at Amalie Arena for Sunday and Tuesday night’s Game 2, and fans without tickets for Games 3 and 4 at Amalie Arena will be able to watch outside in Thunder Alley. Details on those events, which will be ticketed, will come soon.

The Lightning are increasing the capacity of Amalie Arena to 37 percent, about 7,000 fans, for the first round. Tickets are being sold to season-ticket holders, then Lightning Insider email subscribers.

The Panthers will host just fewer than 50 percent capacity, which is about 9,000 to 10,000 fans.

Contact Eduardo A. Encina at eencina@tampabay.com. Follow @EddieintheYard.

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