TAMPA — With a little push — literally — Lightning forward Barclay Goodrow helped his team find its spark and close out its first-round series against the Panthers Wednesday with a 4-0 win.
Goodrow, who made his 2021 postseason debut in Game 6, didn’t take long to break back into action. He delivered three of his team-high five hits in the opening period, including a loud one on Owen Tippett, which sent the Panthers forward into his team’s bench.
For the past six games, Goodrow watched his team from a distance, sidelined with an upper-body injury suffered during the next-to-last game of the regular season. That night, he was in a late third-period fight with Panthers forward Noel Acciari.
“It’s tough when you’re out and watching,” Goodrow said. “You see the guys battling so hard, working so hard and just playing so well. But it’s great to be back (Wednesday).”
Goodrow’s return reunited him with Yanni Gourde and Blake Coleman on the Lightning’s third line. It was just like old times, with the trio — which forged its gnat-like identity en route to the Stanley Cup last postseason — causing chaos as always.
“He’s a glue guy,” coach Jon Cooper said. “He drives the team into the fight, and you can’t have enough of those guys. He has an impact on the team, not necessarily in a point-producing way, but in ways that help you win, so I think it was a big lift for our guys to get him back.”
With Goodrow back in the lineup, the Lightning went back to the typical lineup of 12 forwards and six defensemen, sitting Luke Schenn.
Goodrow, 28, didn’t shy away from big hits in his return, bringing a grittiness to Tampa Bay’s game that helped it close out the series and clinch a second-round berth.
The “bite” to his game adds to the team’s physicality. Goodrow led the team in hits (111) during the regular season, and his five on Wednesday led both rosters. He was involved offensively, too, with three shots on goal.
It didn’t take long for Goodrow’s teammates to recognize his contributions on the ice.
“He was outstanding (Wednesday),” captain Steven Stamkos said. “I mean, to just jump right into a game after being out a while and just the physicality that he brings (was outstanding).”
Goodrow plays a key role on the Lightning’s penalty kill. He blocks shots, goes up against top power-play units and steps up to take key faceoffs.
Goodrow has played in the second-most playoff games (47) over the past three seasons, behind teammate Pat Maroon (57), compiling 147 hits and eight points (3-5—8) in those games. In 2019, he scored San Jose’s game-winning goal in a 5-4 overtime victory against Vegas in Game 7 of the opening round.
When it comes to the postseason, Goordrow’s experience speaks for itself.
“The cream rises to the top in big moments,” Cooper said. “And he’s definitely done that.”
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