Sunrise, Florida (AP) – In four games over a stressful week, the Tampa Bay Lightning went from the brink of playoff elimination to a 2-0 lead in the Eastern Conference semi-finals.
Ross Colton He scored with 3.8 seconds remaining, giving the two-time Stanley Cup champion a 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers in Game Two of his best of seven streak Thursday night.
The Lightning has won four straight times since trailing Toronto 3-2 in the first round and will be looking to advance the chain of command over the Presidents Cup-winning Panthers when the game moves across the state to Tampa for game three on Sunday.
Colton said he was just trying not to score at the last minute. He ended up being the hero when Nikita Kucherov He retrieved a loose puck behind the Florida net and fired a perfect pass without a look, Hand’s backhand raised by Colton Sergey BobrovskyRight shoulder to win it.
“I was kind of trying to sit back and let the plays come to us. But when you’re on the ice with (Kucherov), you have to be prepared for anything. As soon as I saw the disc behind the net, I went to the front of the net,” Colton said.
“He has eyes in the back of his head, you see, because I didn’t even know he knew I was there. He wrapped it as a gift for me,” Colton continued. “Fortunately it squeaks under the crossbar there, but his play is incredible.”
Florida, which had the best record in the NHL during the regular season, now has to win four of the last five games in the series to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
Meanwhile, the Lightning play as a team determined to become the first team to win three consecutive Stanley Cup titles since the New York Islanders won four consecutive titles in the early 1980s.
“We’re two games closer to where we want to be, but we’re not there yet,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “I told you this on the last series, and I’ll tell you again: Tonight was just one match. We’re here to win a series.”
Florida State interim head coach Andrew Brunet expects the Panthers to turn back when the series resumes in Tampa.
“It’s obviously really hard. It’s not easy. This is a roller coaster ride,” Brunette said. “The sun will rise, we’ll wake up, and we need to keep playing like we’re playing.”
Once again, Tampa Bay’s strong game was a catalyst and production factor Corey BerryFirst half goal after scoring three goals in Lightning’s 4-1 win in the first game.
Meanwhile, Florida’s power game continued to falter.
The Panthers scored the third most power-playing goal during the regular season, but entered the second game of the series 0-for-21 in blocking positions through seven games after the season.
They were 0 for 4 Thursday evening, with the team’s only goal coming with a shot from 30 feet Ito lostarinen This flowing past Andrei Vasilevsky With 1:53 remaining in the second period.
“They’re putting pressure on it,” Brunette said of Florida’s power game. “It’s really unbelievable. I loved the rush, I thought we had some looks. I thought it was better. There was a great opportunity to cash in.”
Bobrovsky said the Panthers should try to forget this loss and come back ready to fight on Sunday.
“Obviously everyone is disappointed,” Bobrovsky said. “It was calm, but all the guys are professionals. They understand that the next match will be big. We can make a difference in the future, not in the past. That is. We have to stay together and keep working.”
“This is a good challenge for us. All year long we have been struggling. We have found a way to get back in the games from adversity. This is another test for us. We will just reset and regroup the next group.”
Vasilevskiy stopped 34 of Tampa Bay’s 35 rounds. Bobrovsky completed 25 saves.
Notes: Brunette is one of the finalists for the NHL Coach of the Year, as are former Panthers coach Gerard Gallant of the New York Rangers and Calgary coach Darryl Sutter — brother of former Panthers coach Duane Sutter. The finalists were announced Thursday. … The Amalie Arena in Tampa hosts a concert on Saturday, so teams get an extra day off before the start of back-to-back games 3 and 4 on Sunday and Monday. …Thursday was only the second day the Panthers played a home playoff on the same day that the Miami Heat — their South Florida neighbors who played about 45 minutes south — played their own game. The first such day was on Tuesday.
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