When playing a team that is facing elimination — let alone one that hasn’t won a playoff series in 25 years — you have to match their intensity.
And few players compete with more emotion than Panthers power forward Patric Hornqvist.
For much of the first-round series against the Lightning, Hornqvist seemed more frustrated than anything, seemingly distracted by the shenanigans taking place after the whistle and complaining vociferously to the officials when he thought he had been wronged.
Before Monday, he probably was best known to Lightning fans for being knocked on his backside by Yanni Gourde after hitting the Tampa Bay center high after a whistle during Game 2 or for the dangerous blindside hit into the boards that sent defenseman Mikhail Sergachev to the locker room late in Game 4.
But when you’re as active in front of the net as the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Hornqvist, you’re bound to make an impact sooner or later. Twice in this series, Hornqvist has made a big one.
The two-time Stanley Cup champion (with the Penguins) started the Panthers’ comeback from a two-goal, third-period deficit in their Game 3 overtime win Thursday when a Jonathan Huberdeau pass into the crease deflected off one of his skates and into the net.
And Hornqvist put Game 5 away Monday when an Aleksander Barkov shot went off his shoulder into the net while he was down on the ice after being upended by Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. The goal gave Florida a two-goal lead that Tampa Bay could not overcome.
Here is how we graded the Lightning’s performance in their 4-1 loss in Game 5:
The team that scored first won the first four games, and the Lightning didn’t leave anything to chance in Game 5.
Less than a minute into the game, Blake Coleman banked the puck off the sideboards back to himself to get around Panthers defensemen Keith Yandle, then beat two Florida players down the ice. Coleman backhanded a pass to Ross Colton, who scored from the back door to open the scoring just 53 seconds in.
The Lightning couldn’t have asked for a better start. Unfortunately, the trend didn’t hold.
The Lightning spent six minutes in the penalty box in the first period, but goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy turned away all seven shots he faced and got some help from Steven Stamkos, who forced a turnover along the wall that resulted in a clear by Anthony Cirelli on the first penalty kill.
The Panthers short-circuited their second power play, as Huberdeau was penalized for hooking Sergachev just eight seconds into the man-advantage opportunity. Victor Hedman and Sergachev blocked shots on the third Florida power play. A great stick by Hedman also spoiled a chance for Carter Verhaeghe.
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Though Hornqvist scored a power-play goal in the third period, the Lightning killed four of their five penalties in the game.
After surrendering 19 goals over the first four games, the Panthers were desperate to find a solution in net. They turned to 20-year-old rookie Spencer Knight, who had played just four regular-season games, going 4-0.
The move didn’t look good when Knight allowed Colton’s goal on the first shot he faced less than a minute into the game. But it looked a lot better when Knight stopped the next 21 in the period and 36 of 37 in the game.
To watch the 13th overall pick in the draft two years ago, you would never have guessed he was playing at Boston College just a couple of months ago. He was aggressive yet calm in net, gave up few rebounds and came up with big saves when his team needed them.
Now, Knight has a chance to help Florida win a postseason series for the first time since before he was born.
Can’t save face
We hear all the time about the importance of winning faceoffs, and there was no better example than on the Panthers’ first goal early in the second period.
With a faceoff deep in the Lightning zone, Sam Bennett won the faceoff cleanly from Steven Stamkos and pulled the puck back to Mackenzie Weegar at the point. Weegar whipped a shot just over the glove of Vasilevskiy, who didn’t appear to see the shot as he had Ryan McDonagh in his field of vision.
Finding some space
The Panthers are a more dangerous team the more Aleksander Barkov has the puck on his stick, as the center is both an outstanding passer and adept at controlling the puck on the rush or on the power play. His 26 goals during the regular season led all Florida players.
McDonagh and Erik Cernak, who have logged the most ice time against Barkov’s line during 5-on-5 play, did a great job of neutralizing Barkov in the first four games, limiting him to two even-strength points.
But Barkov found some space to work with behind the Lightning net late in the second period, and he made the most of it. His pass from below the goal line set up Mason Marchment, who beat Vasilevskiy gloveside to give the Panthers their first lead of the game at 2-1.
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