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Lightning, Panthers expect intensity to grow as series progresses

Notes | Injury updates on Erik Cernak and Brayden Point, Ben Chiarot is fined and Game 2 watch party details.
Lightning forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) and Pat Maroon (14) tangle with Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas (7) during the first period of Game 1 Tuesday in Sunrise.
Lightning forwards Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) and Pat Maroon (14) tangle with Florida Panthers defenseman Radko Gudas (7) during the first period of Game 1 Tuesday in Sunrise. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]
Published May 18|Updated May 19

SUNRISE — This time last year, the Lightning and Panthers couldn’t wait to drop their gloves while battling through an emotional six-game first-round series.

But that kind of animosity was missing from Tuesday’s second-round opener at FLA Live Arena.

“Usually, the first round of the playoffs is really gung ho,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said Wednesday. “Like, guys are so excited to get going and guys are running around 100 miles an hour trying to kill each other.

“(But) you can only sustain that for so long, right? It’s just draining, and you want to go out and do that, but you also want to execute your game plan. … If you’re just going to run around, it’s going to catch up with you eventually.”

Both teams are coming off emotionally exhausting first-round series, with Tampa Bay going the full seven games against Toronto and Florida coming back from a 2-1 deficit against Washington to win its first postseason series since 1996 in six games.

Related: Without Brayden Point, Lightning succeed with adjusted lineup

In Game 1 of last season’s series, the Lightning and Panthers accumulated a combined seven roughing penalties. On Tuesday, there was only one such penalty in Tampa Bay’s 4-1 win.

But just because the series started milder than last season’s doesn’t mean it will stay that way.

“Our group kind of goes with the flow,” Stamkos said. “If it’s going to be that type of game, Patty (Maroon) and the boys are going to step up and it’s going to be that type of game.

“And if it’s going to be a game where discipline is going to be a huge factor, where special teams is going to be huge factor, then we need to win the special teams battle.”

Related: Alex Killorn look-a-likes invade Sunrise for Game 1

The first game won’t necessarily be indicative of the series, coach Jon Cooper said.

“I expect, as every series goes, the deeper they go, the more the intensity builds,” he said.

Cernak back, Point still out

Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak skates during practice Wednesday in Sunrise.
Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak skates during practice Wednesday in Sunrise. [ DIRK SHADD | Times ]

Defensemen Erik Cernak and Cal Foote, who were injured while blocking separate shots by Panthers defenseman Brandon Montour during Game 1, were at practice.

Cooper said he anticipated that Cernak, who missed the final six-plus minutes of the second period and all of the third, to play in Game 2 on Thursday night.

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Center Brayden Point, out with a lower-body injury since Saturday’s Game 7 in Toronto, and defenseman Zach Bogosian, who was excused from practice, were the only players missing.

Related: Lights, cameras, Kucherov! Lightning star takes center stage in Game 1

Cooper said Point again will not be available for Game 2.

Panthers forward Mason Marchment, who also missed Game 1, is “probably not available,” interim coach Andrew Brunette said.

Florida frustrated with power play

Brunette said frustration “absolutely” is settling in about the Panthers’ struggling power play. After going 0-for-3 Tuesday, Florida is 0-for-21 in the postseason.

It’s a drastic change from the regular season, when Florida had the fifth-best power play in the league, converting on 24.4 percent of its opportunities.

“Obviously we talk about it. We need to score on the power play,” captain Aleksander Barkov said. “I wouldn’t say we’re forcing anything extraordinary or anything like that. We’re just trying to stick with the plan and maybe be a little more simple, put more pucks to the net. … We have great guys there on the ice, but we have to score.”

Related: Lightning-Panthers Game 1 report card: Refreshed, rejuvenated

Loose pucks

• Florida defenseman Ben Chiarot was fined $5,000, the maximum allowed under the collective bargaining agreement, for head-butting Lightning forward Ross Colton on Tuesday. Both players received minor penalties for cross-checking.

• The Lightning will host a Game 2 watch party Thursday on the plaza at Thunder Alley at Amalie Arena. Fans can arrive with chairs starting at 5:30 p.m. for the 7 p.m. start. The party begins at 6.

Contact Mari Faiello at mfaiello@tampabay.com. Follow @faiello_mari.

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