June 25, 2024

Sergei Bobrovsky’s 26 saves propelled the Florida Panthers to a 5-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night, giving them a commanding 3-0 lead in the first-round playoff series.

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Matthew Tkachuk contributed two goals, while Brandon Montour, Sam Reinhart, and Steven Lorentz also found the net for the Panthers. Tkachuk’s goals included one in the first period and an empty-netter with 32 seconds remaining.

Looking ahead to Saturday’s game in Tampa, Tkachuk emphasized the team’s satisfaction with their performance but acknowledged the challenge of securing the fourth win in the series.

For Tampa Bay, goals from Steven Stamkos, Tyler Motte, and Nicholas Paul kept the game competitive, with Paul cutting the deficit to 4-3 with 5:10 left. Despite the loss, Lightning Coach Jon Cooper encouraged his players to maintain belief in their abilities and to show up ready to compete in the next game.

Montour’s goal late in the second period and Lorentz’s marker in the third provided crucial momentum for the Panthers. Reinhart’s goal in the second period helped to even the score after Stamkos and Motte had put Tampa Bay ahead earlier.

Florida’s penalty-killing efforts were particularly noteworthy, as they successfully neutralized Tampa Bay’s potent power play, which had been the NHL’s best during the regular season. This strong defensive performance was highlighted by Coach Paul Maurice as a key factor in the victory.

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Despite missing key players like Sam Bennett and Ryan Lomberg, the Panthers received a significant contribution from Kyle Okposo, who provided an assist in his first playoff appearance since 2016.

“It’s an indescribable feeling,” Okposo expressed.

In the matchup between the Hurricanes and Islanders, Carolina claimed a 3-0 series lead with a 3-2 victory in New York. Defensemen Brent Burns and Dmitry Orlov contributed early goals for the Hurricanes, with Sebastian Aho also finding the net. Andrei Svechnikov provided two assists, while Frederik Andersen made 29 saves to secure the win. The Hurricanes continued their success at UBS Arena, winning for the eighth time in nine games at the venue.

For the Islanders, Brock Nelson and Pierre Engvall scored goals, but they now face the possibility of being eliminated by Carolina in the first round for the second year in a row. Ilya Sorokin started in goal for the Islanders but was replaced by Semyon Varlamov after giving up three goals on 14 shots in the second period.

Despite trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Islanders fought back, outshooting the Hurricanes 15-9. Engvall scored early in the second period to narrow the deficit, but Aho restored Carolina’s two-goal lead shortly after. Nelson added another goal for the Islanders late in the period.

Andersen made crucial saves in the third period to preserve the Hurricanes’ lead, including one while falling backward and another while sitting on the ice. The Islanders pulled Varlamov for an extra skater in the final minutes but were unable to find the equalizer.

The Hurricanes played without defenseman Brett Pesce, who was sidelined due to a lower-body injury suffered in Game 2. Tony DeAngelo filled in for Pesce and played alongside Brady Skjei on defense.

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