SUNRISE — It was a tough task for the Lightning without injured Brayden Point in the lineup. His dynamic moves on the ice and key role on the top power-play unit make him hard to replace. But Tuesday night was an opportunity for others to step up.
The Lightning went with an adjusted lineup of 11 forwards and seven defensemen in their 4-1 victory over the Panthers to open their second-round playoff series. Defenseman Jan Rutta played for the first time since Game 1 of the first round against the Maple Leafs.
The lineup was tested from the start.
Defenseman Cal Foote blocked a shot from Florida defenseman Brandon Montour with 6:18 remaining in the first period, which led to a total ice time of 7:33, a 2022 playoff low for him). Defenseman Erik Cernak blocked a shot from Montour with 6:20 remaining in the second and didn’t return. Coach Jon Cooper didn’t have an update on Cernak after the game.
“Obviously some early adversity for us, not having Point for Game 1,” defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “There’s going to be time throughout any series where guys are out for a bit, just with injuries and taking nicks and bumps.
“We’re used to it now at this point. Fortunately or unfortunately, you have to roll with it, and we don’t change our game play because of who’s out there. … It’s a next-man-up mentality, and we go out there and do our jobs.”
The blocked shots prompted some increased ice time for veterans McDonagh (22:22) and Victor Hedman (a game-high 26:48).
Additionally, McDonagh blocked four shots, moving his all-time total to 386, surpassing former Rangers and Lightning teammate Dan Girardi for the most in the league.
“That’s commitment,” Cooper said of the defensive effort. “And we talk about, with the guys, you’ve got to have a passion for the hockey game, you got to be committed.
“If you look at it, go down the list: Foote’s block, (Mikhail) Sergachev’s block, Cernak’s block, (Alex Killorn’s) block. You just go down the list of this. I just found out today that McDonagh is the all-time leading playoff shot blocker. That’s commitment, and you need that to win a game. And the goaltender will tell you that, and that’s what’s really helped us over the last couple games.”
Florida’s Anthony Duclair shows out in return to lineup
Follow all the action on and off the ice
Subscribe to our free Lightning Strikes newsletter
You’re all signed up!
Want more of our free, weekly newsletters in your inbox? Let’s get started.Explore all your options
Panthers forward Anthony Duclair made a statement in his return to play. After logging five shots on goal through five games in the opening-round series against the Capitals, Duclair was scratched for Friday’s first-round series finale.
With forward Mason Marchment out to injury, though, Duclair made the most of the opportunity to get back in the lineup by scoring the Panthers’ lone goal.
On the first-period play, Jonathan Huberdeau raced down the ice with the puck. He entered the zone and stopped at the right face-off circle. Duclair then lifted his stick, acknowledging he was ready for a pass, and Huberdeau sent the puck cross-ice to the bottom of the slot.
Duclair’s shot on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy slid through for the 1-0 lead with 5:59 remaining in the period. It was his first career playoff goal.
Duclair finished the night with two shots on goal and logged 12:46 of ice time, skating on a line with Huberdeau and Sam Bennett.
“It was great (getting back in the lineup),” Duclair said. “Any time you get the chance to play with some key players, I want to be out there and do my best.”
• • •
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.