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Erik Cernak and Steven Stamkos scored from the left circle in the second period, and the Lightning lead the Panthers 3-1 in Game 3 of their second-round series this afternoon at Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay’s Corey Perry opened the scoring with just over six minutes remaining in the first period on a double deflection. Sam Reinhart ended Florida’s postseason drought on the power play late in the period, tying the game.
The Lightning lead the best-of-seven series 2-0 after taking the first two games at FLA Live Arena in Sunrise.
Follow our live updates throughout the game:
Lightning will start the period with two minutes of penalty time thanks to the Hornqvist penalty at the end of the first period
Hedman blast from the center point was blocked by Ben Chiarot
Sergei Bobrovsky makes save on Nikita Kucherov shot
Panthers kill the penalty, so Lightning 0-for-2 on the power play
LIGHTNING GOAL! Erik Cernak scores from the left circle over Bobrovsky’s glove in top right corner after receiving pass from Ondrej Palat that went under Ross Colton’s stick. Lightning 2, Panthers 1.
Aleksander Barkov hits the right post after getting behind Ryan McDonagh
Claude Giroux shot from the left circle covered by Vasilevskiy
Victor Hedman penalized for interference on Carter Verhaeghe
Brandon Paul is without a stick
Vasilevskiy stops Ekblad shot from the left circle
Ekblad shot misses the net
Ekblad shot blocked by Cernak
Tons of chances in close for Florida, but Vasilevskiy keeps the puck out of the net
McDonagh clears the puck out of the crease
McDonagh gets stick in front of Jonathan Huberdeau chance from in close
Lightning kill the penalty
LIGHTNING GOAL! Stamkos scores on a blast from the right faceoff dot after pass from Kucherov off the rush. Lightning 3, Panthers 1.
Bobrovsky makes save on Alex Killorn wrist shot
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Nikita Kucherov redirects Victor Hedman pass just wide of the net
Brandon Hagel wrister from the high slot gloved by Sergei Bobrovsky
Ross Colton stripped of the puck by Aaron Ekbland on 2-on-1
Zach Bogosian shot off the rush sticked aside by Bobrovsky
Corey Perry one-timer from the left circle blocked by Radko Gudas
Andrei Vasilevskiy makes a save on MacKenzie Weegar after Mikhail Sergachev failed to get the puck out of the zone
Weegar shot from the point doesn’t get through to the net
Kucherov backhand shot from a sharp angle turned aside by Bobrovsky
Nick Paul leaves for the locker room after big hit into the boards by Ben Chiarot
Victor Hedman blast from the left point stopped by Bobrovsky’s pad
Vasilevskiy stops Maxim Manin on breakaway with glove save after turnover in the neutral zone
Vasileskiy stops Sam Reinhart from in front with glove
Sam Bennett penalized for holding Ryan McDonagh, giving the Lightning their first power play (8:54 to play)
Paul back on the Lightning bench
Corey Perry shot from in front blocked by Aaron Ekblad
Bobrovsky makes save on Hedman shot
Alexsander Barkov lifts Steven Stamkos stick, clears the puck out of the zone
Panthers kill the penalty
LIGHTNING GOAL! Corey Perry scores on double deflection from in front after Steven Stamkos redirected Ryan McDonagh shot from the center point. Lightning 1, Panthers 0.
Brandon Hagel receives minor penalty for cross-checking after shoving Eetu Luostarinen hard into the end boards
PANTHERS GOAL: Florida snaps its 0-for-25 power play drought on Sam Reinhart snap shot from below the harshmarks. Lightning 1, Panthers 1.
Vasilevskiy makes a beautiful skate save to thwart Reinhart from in close
Pat Maroon shot saved by Bobrovsky
Bobrovsky stops Ross Colton
Patric Hornqvist penalized at the buzzer for cross-checking Erik Cernak
(Lightning and Panthers tied 1-1 after one period)
Pregame scouting report
It is commonly called the race to four, two teams competing over a seven-game series to win four games and advance to the next round.
In their second-round series against the Panthers, the Lightning seem to prefer a slog to four.
And why not?
By working hard in all three zones, closing off the middle of the ice, staying disciplined and being opportunistic on offense, Tampa Bay has set the pace, slowing Florida’s high-flying offense, and moved out to a quick two-game lead.
The Lightning have been committed to defense as a five-man unit, allowing a total of just two goals over the first 120 minutes of the series. Carter Verhaeghe, who had three winning goals in Florida’s opening-round series against Washington, did not manage even a shot on goal in Game 2.
The Bolts have sacrificed their bodies, blocking 40 shots over the first two games, and kept the Panthers off the scoreboard on all seven of their chances with the man-advantage. Of course, your best penalty-killer is your goaltender, and Andrei Vasilevskiy has been brilliant, stopping 68 of 70 shots in the series.
As a result, the Lightning find themselves two wins from earning a spot in the Eastern Conference final as the series moves to Tampa for Games 3 and 4.
In the absence of star center Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov has made the two biggest plays of the series, turning Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad inside-out before setting up Corey Perry for the tying goal in Game 1 and then making a blind, backhand pass to Ross Colton for the winner in the closing seconds of Game 2.
With Perry subbing for Point in the bumper position, the Lightning power play has been on fire, converting on 44.4 percent (4 of 9) of its chances. Perry has scored two of those goals.
Vasilevskiy, who has played every game during the 2020 ‘21 and ‘22 postseasons, again will start this afternoon in the first of back-to-back games. He likely will be back in net on Monday despite not playing both halves of a back-to-back all season.
Point continues to be out for the Lightning with a lower-body injury. Forward Brandon Hagel is in the lineup after being a game-time decision after not practicing on Saturday due to “body maintenance.”
Follow our live updates, starting at 1:30 p.m., as Tampa Bay aims to move within one win of advancing to the conference final for the third consecutive season.
Game day scene
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George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism