TAMPA — If you pegged the Lightning to win Game 3 in overtime based off last year’s experience in the playoffs, your hunch was valid.
The team went to overtime nine times last year — including a shootout against the Capitals in the first game of the round-robin series — and won seven. Overtime was the Lightning’s friend then, and it could have been again Thursday night.
But it wasn’t, due to an odd-man rush right after a faceoff, Florida’s Ryan Lomberg sprinting toward Andrei Vasilevskiy after chasing down a chipped-in puck that got between Tampa Bay defensemen Victor Hedman and Jan Rutta.
Lomberg got behind Hedman and, moments later, scored his first goal of the playoffs.
“That’s hockey,” Hedman said. “Sometimes that happens. You can’t change that now. That was one of those plays where, looking back at it, maybe you could have played it differently.”
Entering the extra period, only one Florida player had previously scored a postseason overtime goal: forward Patric Hornqvist. Meanwhile, the Lightning had eight postseason overtime goal-scorers on their roster: Nikita Kucherov (2), Brayden Point (2), Tyler Johnson (2), Anthony Cirelli, Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, Pat Maroon and Ondrej Palat.
Tampa Bay’s playoff overtime record fell to 22-11 (8-7 on home ice), while the Panthers improved to 3-8 (2-4 on the road). The Lightning have lost their last two postseason overtime games (including Game 5 of last season’s Stanley Cup final).
Tampa Bay had three shots on goal in overtime. Arguably, its best look came from Mikhail Sergachev, whose shot from the point hit iron and rebounded into open ice.
Rookie Ross Colton — who scored his first career postseason goal earlier in the game — and Anthony Cirelli — who broke a 28-game goal drought — also had good looks in the extra period.
It had been more than two years since Lightning fans could celebrate the postseason together at Amalie Arena, dating back to Game 2 of the 2018-19 series against the Columbus Blue Jackets. The 9,508 fans rattled noisemakers and glowed in the dark thanks to LED bracelets left on their seats.
“The buzz in Florida is palpable,” NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said during a second-intermission interview with Bally Sports. “This building is either very loud or I’m losing my hearing.”
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The energy from the crowd was something the Lightning were looking forward as they arrived back home after playing the first two games in Sunrise. In their last home game on May 7, the team played in front of 4,200 fans.
Another 600 fans gathered outside the arena, at watch parties on Thunder Alley, as well as the Pepsi Porch and Cigar City Taproom areas.
“We haven’t seen that (here) in quite some time,” coach Jon Cooper said. “It was a sea of blue. It was really cool to see. It just brings back great memories of playoff games in this building. And it’s fun to have fans back, regardless of what arena you’re in. This sport is meant to be displayed for fans so they can enjoy it as much as we do.”
• The five Lightning goals in the second period set a franchise mark for most in a playoff period. It bested the previous high of four (set twice previously, most recently during Game 3 against Boston last year).
• Victor Hedman logged his second three-assist game of the series. All of his assists came on second-period goals and matched a record for the most helpers in a playoff period, achieved by three different players last year.
Contact Mari Faiello at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @faiello_mari.
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