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Ross Colton scored with less than four seconds remaining to lift the Lightning to a 2-1 victory over the Panthers in Game 2 of their second-round playoff series Thursday at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Tampa Bay takes a 2-0 series lead into Game 3 Sunday at Amalie Arena.
With the game seemingly headed to overtime, Nikita Kucherov collected a puck behind the Panthers net and sent a backhand pass to a wide-open Colton, who scored from below the left circle.
The Lightning led 1-0 on Corey Perry’s first-period power-play goal before Eetu Luostarinen tied it late in the second.
Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy made 35 saves on 36 shots and has now stopped 98 of 101 over his past three games.
Here’s how it happened:
Panthers will start the period with 1:13 remaining on the power play
Nick Paul sends the puck down the ice
Paul again clears the puck out of the zone
Lightning kill the Kucherov penalty
Patric Hornqvist tries to pull a puck out from under Vasilevskiy but pokes it wide
MacKenzie Weegar shot blocked by Stamkos
Cernak blocks Weegar shot
Barkov shot blocked by Bellemare
Hagel limps off after blocking a shot
Killorn blocks Acciari shot
Hagel is back on the Lightning bench
Gudas hits Cirelli along the boards
Reinhart shot from the right circle off the rush misses the net
McDonagh shot from the center point misses wide
Panthers penalized for too many men on the ice with just over 11 minutes remaining
Stamkos one-timer from the left circle stopped by Bobrovsky, Lightning’s first shot on goal in last nine minutes
Panthers clear the puck out of the zone
Hedman shot from the point goes wide
Weegar clears the puck out of the zone
Panthers kill the penalty; Lightning had one shot on the power play
Wow! Bobrovsky lunges to his left to make a glove save on a Palat shot from the right circle that seemed headed for an open net with just over four minutes remaining
Stamkos penalized for tripping Reinhart in the neutral zone with 3:23 remaining
Quick shot off the faceoff by Duclair blocked
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Girioux shot blocked
Duclair redirect stopped by Vasilevskiy
Girioux shot from the right point goes wide
Huberdeau shot off Vasileskiy’s glove
Barkov shot blocked, and Lightning clear the puck
Lightning kill the Stamkos penalty
Montour blast from the left circle saved by Vasilevskiy
LIGHTNING GOAL! Ross Colton scores from below the left circle off a backhand pass from Kucherov from behind the net with 3.8 seconds remaining. Lightning 2, Panthers 1.
(Lightning win 2-1, take 2-0 series lead)
Nick Paul shot kicked out by Sergei Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky blocks Alex Killorn shot from the slot
Aaron Ekblad blast from the right circle blocked by Steven Stamkos, who skates to the bench in pain and heads to the locker room at the end of his shift
Ekblad shot saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy
Ekblad again stopped by Andrei Vasilevskiy
Pierre-Edouard Bellemare penalized for tripping, and the Panthers get their first power play
Cernak is back on the ice
Ekblad shot from the center point gloved by Vasilevskiy
Jonathan Huberdeau shot tipped wide by Claude Giroux
Lightning clear the puck
Sam Bennett steals the puck from Ondrej Palat but Lightning get it back out of their zone
Lightning kill the penalty; Panthers now 0-for-22 on the power play in the playoffs
MacKenzie Weegar shot misses wide
Zach Bogosian shot from the right circle hits the side of the net
Stamkos hits Patric Hornqvist
Girioux shot from the left circle goes wide
Radko Gudas hits Cernak into the boards, eliciting loud cheers from the crowd
Cernak shot from right point saved by Bobrovsky
Panthers with only six scoring chances through first half of the game
Pat Maroon puts Gudas in a headlock after Gudas gives Vasilevskiy a snow shower while driving the net
Victor Hedman penalized for holding Claude Giroux’s stick
Anthony Cirelli sends the puck down the ice
Alex Killorn shorthanded shot from the slot gets behind Bobrovsky, who reaches back to cover the puck
Gudas penalized for cross-checking Brandon Hagel, putting Lightning on the power play for the second time
Nikita Kucherov pass to Cirelli to Perry tipped wide of the net
Kucherov shot from the right circle saved by Bobrovsky
Stamkos shot saved by Bobrovsky
Kucherov shoots wide
Panthers kill the Gudas penalty
Vasilevskiy saves Forsling shot from the left circle after a cross-ice pass from Huberdeau
PANTHERS GOAL: Eetu Luostarinen shot from the top of the left circle gets behind Vasilevskiy as Gustav Forsling drives the net. Lightning 1, Panthers 1. (1:53 remaining)
Kucherov penalized for tripping Montour (46.9 remaining)
(Lightning and Panthers tied at 1 after two periods)
Patric Hornqvist hits Ondrej Palat
Patric Hornqvist shot saved by Andrei Vasilevskiy
MacKenzie Weegar hits Corey Perry
Gustav Forsling shot doesn’t get to the net
Anthony Cirelli hits Forsling
Forsling shot misses the net
Brandon Montour hits Palat
Montour blocks shot by Palat
Montour hits Palat
Sam Reinhart hits Palat
Ryan Lomberg backhander saved by Vasilevskiy
Ross Colton hits Ben Chiarot
Cal Foote shot deflected up into the stands
Sergei Bobrovsky stops Pat Maroon shot from left circle after pass from Nikita Kucherov sent Maroon in on a 2-on-1
Bobrovsky saves Cirelli shot from the left circle
Claude Giroux pass for Carter Verhaeghe broken up
Brandon Hagel shot saved by Bobrovsky
Palat shot blocked
Brandon Montour penalized for hooking, and the Lightning get their first power play with 8:31 left in period
LIGHTNING GOAL! Corey Perry, in the slot, tips a Steven Stamkos shot from the left circle over Bobrovsky’s glove. Lightning 1, Panthers 0.
Bobrovsky makes a stick save on Hagel blast from the right circle
Verhaeghe shot from the left circle blocked by Cernak
Forsling shot rides up Cernak’s stick and hits him in the face
Cernak, bent over, leaves the ice holding a glove to his face after being hit high up face; Sergachev left for the locker room earlier
(Lightning lead 1-0 after one period)
Pregame scouting report
Most hockey observers would agree that last season’s opening-round series between the Lightning and Panthers was the most exciting of the 2021 postseason. Exciting back-and-forth action. High-scoring theatrics. Intense physical battles.
Game 1 of the second-round series between the teams Tuesday in Sunrise offered little in the way of similar entertainment value.
But the Lightning got just the outcome they wanted in a 4-1 win.
Knowing better than to get into a track meet with high-flying Florida, Tampa Bay slowed the Panthers through the neutral zone, got bodies in front of shots (blocking 16) and played with discipline, mostly staying out of the penalty box.
The Lightning scored three power-play goals, and Nikita Kucherov provided one of the few highlight-reel plays with an inside-outside move on defenseman Aaron Ekblad before setting up Corey Perry for the tying goal late in the second period.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy was his usual dependable self in net, stopping 33 of 34 shots, and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Kucherov and Ross Colton added third-period goals as Tampa Bay pulled away down the stretch.
While it’s possible the intensity could pick up as the series moves along, the Lightning seem to have found a formula that works for them, and it doesn’t involve putting up big numbers on the scoreboard.
With Brayden Point out of the lineup with a lower-body injury, Kucherov stepped up into the starring role, the “School Bus Line” of Perry, Bellemare and Pat Maroon chipped in with a couple of goals and the Lightning went with an 11-forward, 7-defensemen lineup, which proved fortuitous when they were down to five D-men at one point in the second period.
Point likely will be out again tonight for Game 2, but defenseman Erik Cernak is expected to be back after missing more than 26 minutes of Game 1 after blocking a shot. Panthers forward Mason Marchment, who missed Tuesday’s game, likely will remain out, while forward Carter Verhaeghe will be a game-time decision.
Follow our live updates, starting at 7 p.m., as the Lightning aim to jump out to a two-game lead in the best-of-seven series.
Game day scene
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